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How to Win Over the Fear of Public Speaking

Rohan Bhalerao Apr 21, 2019
The fear of speaking in public is present in a lot of people. Very few are completely confident of stepping onto the stage and addressing an audience. Here is some useful information on this fear, and the methods to deal with it.
According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.
~ Jerry Seinfeld
Fear of speaking in front of an audience is indeed a significant occurrence. A majority of people are afraid of speaking in front of a large group. If you search on the Internet, you will find that it is listed as one of the worst fears among people.
Common symptoms of this are sweating, shivering, and blanking out and completely forgetting the words. It is believed that, for most people, nervousness and public speaking go together. The scientific term for this fear is glossophobia.
When speaking in public, confidence is the key. It is also important to have clarity of thought, and a thorough knowledge of the subject on which you will be speaking. Optimism, confidence, and public speaking, are interrelated activities.
You should always have conviction in your thoughts. Fear stems from lack of a positive and courageous attitude. It can surface even in a small group of 4 to 5 people, especially if you are not familiar with that group of individuals.

Causes of Glossophobia

✦ Lack of interaction with family or friends right from one's childhood.

✦ Lack of confidence and conviction in what one wants to say.

✦ Fear that people may laugh (owing to some prior experience).

✦ Being very self-conscious about one's looks, body postures, or other things.
✦ Ill-preparation of the speech.

✦ Insufficient knowledge of the language in which one intends to give the speech.

✦ Inferiority complex or low self-esteem developed over the years.

✦ Any speech disorder like stammering, phonemic, or articulation disorder.

Overcoming Glossophobia

Jesse Jackson said, If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it. This quote is applicable for every aspect of life. You have to believe in yourself and the task at hand, to get it done fruitfully. This can be applied to the fear of public speaking as well. Mentioned here, are some ways to overcome it.

Face the Fear

The easiest and most obvious solution to overcome any fear is to face it. Once you do that, you will realize that it was not so scary after all. Till you attempt to do something that you are afraid of, you will always find it difficult.
Like Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her book 'You Learn By Living'--You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself - I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.

Build Self-confidence

Marcus Garvey quoted, If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started. This is a great quote to keep in mind when you are facing a confidence crisis. If you have self-confidence, you can achieve what you set your mind to.

Learn to Ignore

Mark Twain said, All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. You need ignorance to be unaffected by thoughts of what people think of you, whether they will laugh at you, or if they will appreciate what you are saying.
Otherwise, you will get bogged down by pressure, and eventually, fail to express yourself freely. Learning to ignore what people will think, and looking at them and maintaining eye-contact while speaking helps.

Have Belief and Conviction

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, The eloquent man is he who is no beautiful speaker, but who is inwardly and desperately drunk with a certain belief. If you are convinced about what you are going to speak, the words will flow freely.
When you talk about something you have a passion for, you back your words with concrete theories and examples. You should try and apply the same principles while speaking in public. Back your words if you are convinced of them. Eloquence is nothing but a product of conviction and belief in your own thoughts.

Sweat the Small Stuff

Firstly, choose your topic wisely. Select one which you are comfortable talking about. As the age-old proverb goes, practice makes man perfect; so practice your speech a few times in front of a friend, or even the mirror, and perfect the areas you stumbled on.
Try to introduce humor in some parts of your speech to keep the audience engaged. If you can think of some interesting anecdote to add, go ahead with it spontaneously. Be interactive.
Ask people questions, understand their opinions on your speech, and respond to their questions or criticisms. Not only will this have a positive effect, but you will also feel at home on stage. Lastly, even if the speech doesn't go as planned, don't let it bother you because it happens with the greatest of orators as well.
To conclude, glossophobia is nothing but a state of mind. As the German proverb rightfully goes - Fear makes the wolf bigger than it is. How you conquer your fear depends on the courage you show. As Lt. John B. Putnam Jr. said, Courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to face it.