What Is Public Speaking Anxiety And How Can I Manage It?

Updated December 22, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

There are many types of fears out there, but there are a few that seem to be especially widespread. Fear of spiders, fear of snakes, fear of flying, and fear of dying are some of the more common ones. Another fear that many people experience is the fear of public speaking, or public speaking anxiety. In this article, we’ll explore what public speaking anxiety is and outline six tips for how to manage it. 

Experiencing Public Speaking Anxiety?

What Is Public Speaking Anxiety?

Public speaking anxiety, also sometimes referred to as glossophobia, is the fear of public speaking. If you have public speaking anxiety, you may experience a deep fear of being judged negatively when having to give a large speech or presentation in public. 

The symptoms may include dry mouth, weak voice, shaking, sweating, blushing, getting hives, and an increased heart rate, to name a few. If you have public speaking anxiety, you are not alone. It is a very common fear, with some researchers citing the reported prevalence at around 15% to 30% of the general population, and others suggesting the prevalence may be much higher. Public speaking anxiety is associated with social anxiety disorder. 

How To Address Public Speaking Anxiety

There are many steps you can take to try to combat public speaking anxiety and feel more prepared ahead of a big presentation. Included below are a few ideas you can try to address public speaking anxiety when it strikes.

  1. Identify Possible Reasons For Your Public Speaking Anxiety 

There are many different reasons why people may have public speaking anxiety. To figure out how to address it, it may help to try to better understand the possible reasons behind it. Once you identify the reasons for feeling this anxiety, you can start to address those root concerns. 

Here are some common reasons people may feel public speaking anxiety:

  • Having a negative past experience with public speaking

  • Feeling unprepared for the speech

  • Having low self-confidence in your ability to speak publicly

  • Worrying about being negatively judged by others. 

These are just a few common explanations, but if you can identify any of the core worries behind your public speaking anxiety, it may help you to identify more effective ways to address it. 

  1. Practice Deep Breathing

Anxiety is often accompanied by shallow, rapid breathing. If you want to calm your anxiety before a public speaking event, it may be helpful to practice deep breathing exercises. Practice breathing in through your nose while making sure that you are expanding your lungs from top to bottom. Once you have breathed in, hold it in for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale it out through a partially open mouth. Once you have completed your exhale, start again.

To help with this, you can practice a method called “box breathing:” breathe in for the count of four, hold for the count of four, breathe out to the count of four, hold at the bottom for the count of four, and repeat as many times as needed. Deep breathing exercises can help calm your nerves and settle your body. 

  1. Practice Visualization

When we experience anxiety about something, we tend to focus on the negatives and worst-case scenarios. We run all of the negative scenarios in our heads over and over again, which can make us even more nervous. You can try to combat this by practicing positive visualization. Practice thinking about yourself speaking in front of a group and doing a great job. This can help you build your confidence and feel more comfortable with the task at hand. 

Experiencing Public Speaking Anxiety?

  1. Prepare And Practice With Someone You Trust 

There are many ways that you can prepare for a speech or presentation to help combat public speaking anxiety. Start by making sure that you are familiar with the material you're going to be speaking about. Then, you can practice it on your own until you feel that you know the material well. 

Additionally, if possible, it might help to make sure that you are familiar with the location you are presenting in and that you know how to get there. Find out where to go once you arrive, and then make sure you're not rushing before you have to speak. Practice the deep breathing techniques that we discussed before to help re-center yourself and your thoughts. It may also be helpful to practice giving the speech in front of someone you trust first. This may make you feel more confident and comfortable when you have to deliver it to a larger audience. 

  1. Maintain Healthy Habits

Maintaining healthy habits can go a long way in helping you reduce anxiety. Try to exercise on a regular basis, if possible. Exercise can help to release stress and boost your mood. If you have to give a big presentation or speech, it may be helpful to try to get some exercise in that morning. Eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water can also help promote a sense of well-being and calm. Be mindful of your caffeine consumption, as caffeine may worsen anxiety. Finally, make sure to get good sleep ahead of the presentation. 

  1. Talk To A Counselor

If you experience intense anxiety when you need to speak in front of other people and want additional support, it can help to talk to a licensed therapist. A therapist can work with you to find effective ways to manage your anxiety. 

For some people with anxiety, the idea of going to an office to speak with a therapist in person may feel intimidating and nerve-wracking. In these cases, online therapy can be a good option. With online therapy through BetterHelp, you can meet with a therapist from the comfort of your own home. 

Research has shown that online therapy can be effective for a range of concerns, including anxiety. For instance, one research study examined the effectiveness of an online acceptance-based behavioral intervention delivered through videoconferencing for adults with social anxiety disorder (SAD), and it found that the online intervention brought significant improvements in social anxiety for these individuals.

Continue reading below to find reviews of some BetterHelp therapists who have helped people with similar concerns.

“I had the pleasure of working with Ann for a few months, and she helped me so much with managing my social anxiety. She was always so positive and encouraging and helped me see all the good things about myself, which helped my self-confidence so much. I've been using all the tools and wisdom she gave me and have been able to manage my anxiety better now than ever before. Thank you Ann for helping me feel better!”

Brian has helped me immensely in the 5 months since I joined BetterHelp. I have noticed a change in my attitude, confidence, and communication skills as a result of our sessions. I feel like he is constantly giving me the tools I need to improve my overall wellbeing and personal contentment.”

Takeaway

If you are experiencing public speaking anxiety, you might consider trying some of the tips detailed above to try to manage it, such as practicing with someone you trust, incorporating deep breathing techniques, and practicing positive visualization. For additional support with public speaking anxiety, online therapy can help. 

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