Fear of Public Speaking

Information on fears of public speaking and speech anxiety to build your self confidence.

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  1. What is Fear of Public Speaking?
  2. What Causes Fear of Public Speaking?
  3. Diagnosing Fear of Public Speaking
  4. Help for Fear of Public Speaking

What is Fear of Public Speaking?

Most people experience feelings of fear, anxiety or panic attacks when faced with the idea of speaking in public. This usually involves delivering a speech, making a business presentation to your manager and a team of colleagues, announcing a toast at a wedding or talking to a small group of people in a team or committee setting.

These feelings are perfectly normal and even the most seasoned speaker will tell you that he or she feels nervous before facing an audience and also struggles with the occasional "ums" and "ahs" during their speech. Often people will avoid speaking in public at all costs because they may be afraid of failure, criticism or a previous public speaking experience may evoke bad memories.

Not confronting your fear of public speaking can impact negatively on your social, academic and career opportunities. The best way to conquer any fear is to face it head on by taking action. Remember, even if you struggle while speaking, at least you tried and that is a start!

Diagnosing Fear of Public Speaking

Symptoms and signs

The symptoms and signs of the fear of speaking in public usually include feelings of anxiety, panic or nervousness. Sometimes physical symptoms which are part of the body’s flight or fight response to stress may also appear. These symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking voice
  • Tense neck and upper back muscles
  • More severe symptoms may also include nausea and vomiting.

What causes Fear of Open Spaced?

A number of factors may contribute to your fear of public speaking and these include:

  • Trauma or negative events that occurred during childhood or adulthood and as a result the mind associates fear with speaking in public
  • A slow build up of avoiding speaking in public that has escalated to such an extent because the mind and nervous system has now become conditioned to emotions of fear and anxiety
  • The speaker suffers from low self esteem, constantly seeks approval, expects failure or perfection

Help for Fear of Public Speaking

Certain medications such as beta blockers may be prescribed to treat anxiety symptoms. However, if you decide not to choose medications, there are a number of alternative therapies available. Alternative therapies such as counseling, psychotherapy, hypnosis or meditation can be very helpful in decreasing symptoms of anxiety.

Attend public speaking, communications skills or presentation courses that are specifically designed to help you overcome your fear of public speaking and develop confidence in your speaking abilities.

More Information on Fear of Public Speaking

Tips to cope with the Fear of Public Speaking

Follow these useful tips to help you cope and manage the fear of speaking in public effectively:

  • Ensure that you are properly prepared by practicing and rehearsing your speech or presentation many times to boost your self confidence
  • Accept the fact that you will experience nervousness and anxiety when you have to speak in public
  • Visualize yourself speaking well in front of an audience by training your brain to think positively
  • Anticipate and prepare ahead of time that difficult questions and critical comments may be passed. If you cannot answer an audience member’s question, admit it and tell him or her that you will look into it.
  • If a difficult audience member asks you a question, the best way to deal with it is to agree or pay him or her a compliment – for example, "Thanks, that’s a great question."
  • Exercise by running or having a cardiovascular workout on the day of the speech to work off excess nervous energy
  • Calm yourself before speaking by listening to soothing music, practicing deep breathing exercises, meditation or yoga
  • Attend public speaking courses to help you deal with speech anxiety
  • Dress for success on the day of the speech or presentation
  • Maintain good eye contact with your audience by shifting your focus around the room
  • Stay positive and focused by repeating affirmations such as "I am confident that I can do this".
  • Combine humility and humor to make your speech more interesting or entertaining for the audience
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