A fear of public speaking is extremely common. Many or even most people may experience nervousness and stress before they have to speak or perform in front of a crowd, but symptoms can exist on a wide spectrum. Some may simply experience mild “stage fright”. Others may have a clinical phobia of speaking in public—known as glossophobia—or an anxiety disorder like social anxiety, the symptoms of which can be debilitating. People who suspect they may have either of the last two conditions can usually benefit from seeking professional help. That said, most anyone can also benefit from the following tips.
Strategies For Managing A Fear Of Public Speaking
Read on to learn some strategies that may be useful if you find yourself feeling nervous or anxious before giving a presentation at work or school.
Prepare Ahead Of Time
Getting to know the material you’ll be speaking on or performing can help you feel more confident going into the presentation, which is why it’s usually wise to spend a good amount of time practicing. You might even do so in front of friends and family beforehand so you can get used to having people watch as you deliver your content. It may also ease your mind to plan ahead to avoid hiccups as best you can. Choosing an outfit that you feel comfortable in and checking to make sure any technology you’ll be using is functional, for instance, may help you feel calmer on the day of.
Employ Tips For Good Public Speaking
The energy and reactions of the audience can play a role in how confident the speaker may feel. The more engaging a speaker you are, therefore, the more responsive your audience may be and the less nervous you may become as you go through your material. For example, you might try speaking in a strong, clear voice and using open, positive body language like having upright posture and avoiding fidgeting. You might also avoid putting too much text on digital presentation slides, if you have them, so your audience can focus on you and your message instead.
Learn Breathing Techniques
Practice Positive Affirmations
Self-talk refers to your inner monologue. If it’s predominantly negative (“I can’t do this” or “I’ll never succeed”), you may actually be increasing your stress levels and even decreasing the likelihood that you’ll perform well. One study, for instance, found that dart throwers who practiced positive self-talk beforehand performed “significantly better” in terms of throwing accuracy than those who practiced negative self-talk. Speaking to yourself in a positive way (“I can do this” or “I’m proud of myself for taking on this challenge”) may help you feel better and perform better going into your presentation.
When To Seek Help For A Fear Of Public Speaking
Since a fear of public speaking is so common, there are all kinds of groups and resources designed to help people overcome it. Toastmasters is one example of a well-known international organization that offers classes and workshops to help people improve their communication skills. However, if your fear of public speaking is severe or debilitating, it may be worth speaking with a mental health professional to address it.
Some people may develop a clinical phobia of public speaking, known as glossophobia. Symptoms of a phobia in general may include high levels of anxiety, chest pains or tightness, abnormal breathing, dizziness, confusion and disorientation, and hot flashes or chills when exposed to or even thinking about the trigger.
Or, a severe reaction to situations like public speaking could indicate an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of social anxiety, for instance, may include sweating, blushing, trembling, nausea, feeling your mind going blank, and extreme self-consciousness. Some type of therapy is typically the recommended treatment for those who may be experiencing a mental health condition like these.
Speaking With A Therapist About Your Fears
If you feel you may be experiencing a mental health condition like a clinical phobia or anxiety disorder, it may be useful to seek the support of a professional. A therapist can help you get to the root of your fears, shift unhelpful thought patterns, and learn healthy coping mechanisms for when you’re feeling triggered. That said, therapy is an option even for those who don’t have a mental health condition. A trained mental health professional can offer you a safe space to express and work through your feelings. They can also assist you with things like building self-esteem or strengthening your communication skills.
Traditionally, therapy was always performed in person. Now, however, online therapy has become a popular alternative. Research suggests that both formats can offer similar benefits in most situations. That means you can typically choose the one that feels best for you. If you’re interested in the relative accessibility and affordability of the online option, you might consider a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp. You can fill out a simple questionnaire about your needs and preferences and get matched with a licensed therapist accordingly. You can then meet with them via phone, video call, and/or online chat to discuss the challenges you may be facing, all from the comfort of your own home or wherever you have an internet connection and a working device.
Fearing public speaking is quite common. The strategies outlined here may help you better prepare for and cope with the nervousness you might feel around giving a speech or presentation. If you feel that you may have a clinical phobia or anxiety disorder that makes public speaking severely distressing or even impossible, it may be worth speaking with a mental health professional for support.
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