If you have a public speaking phobia, then this might be the most important article you read all year. The fear of public speaking is one of the most widespread and common anxieties. To many people, the simple thought of standing in front of a crowd, having to deliver a speech is terrifying.
Medical experts refer to this condition as “glossophobia” (glosso, meaning tongue, and phobia, meaning fear or anxiety, both in ancient Greek). Among laypeople, it’s also commonly known as “stage fright”, although stage fright might variate a bit from public speaking phobia in the strictest sense of the word.
Of course, we’re all individuals, and ease case is different, so there really is no “one size fits all solution”. However, some things have a much higher success rate than others.
A good, and quiet simple and obvious, but sometimes overlooked piece of advice is to always have a glass of water ready. When you are nervous, your mouth often becomes dry. Take a sip of fresh water and it will make you feel better. (Specially if you previously – before you gave the speech – imagined water to have a cooling, relaxing, and calming effect on yourself).
Toastmasters are a great way to practice getting in front of people. In case you don’t know about toastmasters – they are an international organization that helps people to practice and hone their speaking skills. However, for really bad, intense cases, even attending toastmasters might be too frightening.
What’s more – if you bring too much fear into the room when you talk to a crowd of people, it can turn into some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Because you’re so afraid of the situation, it shows in all your communication: your body language, your posture, your tone of voice – and as a result of that, the audience can react negatively to you. A negative experience is the last thing you need, in fact, it can further “strengthen” your phobia.
That’s why it’s good to make some changes on the inside first. Specific exercises that include visualizing and self-affirmations can help you to overcome the fear of public speaking step by step.
If you want to put that process on “turbo-mode”, you use hypnosis, which helps in 83% of serious public speaking phobias, according to my own experiences working with people.
It’s really not so much about getting rid of the fear itself, but rather using the fear to channel the energy it stirs up productively. Maybe you’ve heard of what joggers refer to as “runner’s high”. It’s an altered state of mind that joggers and marathon runners experience during running, and it’s a very positive and elated state. A similar kind of state, where you are elated, in a positive emotion, is what you want when you speak to a group of people.
Because your enthusiasm will be infectious, and since your brain will get more oxygen thanks to the increased blood circulation, your concentration and your memory will work better too – all important factors that help you to give a great, entertaining speech.