12 Tips to Help You Overcome Glossophobia
Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking
What do people fear more than death? According to several surveys, the answer is public speaking. Whether or not there's any truth to that is debatable (but first you'd have to find some people who aren't afraid to debate in public). There's even a name for this fear—glossophobia. Psychologists classify it as social anxiety disorder although those who claim to have it may not be afraid of any other social interactions.
You don't need technical know about glossophobia, social anxiety disorder, or, in layman's terms, fear of public speaking, to know that when the word "speech" follows the phrase "You have to give a" you break into a cold sweat and your knees start to tremble. You can even feel your cheeks beginning to turn red just at the mere thought of it. For some people, it doesn't even matter if they have to make a presentation to a small group or give a speech to a large audience. The fear of speaking publicly is frightening regardless of the size of the audience.
Since you may be called upon to do this at some point in your career, you can benefit from overcoming your fear and learning how to effectively—and calmly—speak to a group. Following these 12 tips can help you do this:
- Learn as much as you can about your topic: You will be much more comfortable talking about something about which you are knowledgeable.
- Find out who your audience will be: Will you be addressing a group of experts or one that knows little about the topic? Being aware of which will help you structure your presentation accordingly as well as prepare for it. You should always be more knowledgeable than your audience.
- Prepare a presentation: Don't attempt to speak extemporaneously. If you carefully prepare an outline of what you want to cover you won't have to worry about forgetting something important.
- Don't memorize your speech: If you commit your entire speech to memory and then forget even just one line of it, things could spiral out of control and you may find yourself unable to remember the rest of it. You are much better off knowing the essence of what you want to say, but not necessarily every word of it verbatim.
- Practice: Rehearse what you are going to say in front of a mirror or video record it. You can also practice it with a friend. If you go over your speech several times—again not memorizing every single word of it—you will feel more comfortable on the big day.
- Anticipate questions your audience may ask: If you come up with a list of potential questions your audience might have, you will be able to prepare your answers.
- Dress well, but comfortably: You will want to dress professionally for your presentation. Wear an outfit that you look good in and feel good in as well. Having your collar choking you or your shoes pinching your feet while you are up at the podium will be very distracting.
- Stop telling everyone how nervous you are: Don't complain to others about how anxious you feel. Dwelling on it will just serve to exacerbate your anxiety. Instead pretend to be confident even if you feel anything but.
- Keep a glass of water next to you: Having a dry mouth while giving a speech happens to everyone not only those who are fearful of public speaking. To keep from feeling like your mouth is filled with cotton, take sips of water occasionally.
- Find some friendly faces in the audience: Try to find people in different parts of the room with whom you can make eye contact during your presentation. It will calm you down if you start to feel anxious.
- Use visual aids: A slide show, for example, will make your presentation more interesting and will give your audience something to focus on other than you. Check to make sure the facility at which you are giving your speech has the equipment you need and that you know how it works. If you are planning a digital presentation, you will need a smart podium for instance. If it doesn't have what you need, plan accordingly. Don't forget that your slides are there to supplement your speech. Don't read directly from them.
- Speak slowly: People tend to talk more quickly when they are nervous so make a conscious effort to slow down. You will be less likely to stumble over your words if you aren't rushing through your speech.