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Overcome Glossophobia – The medical term for fear of public speaking

According to one estimate, 75% of people experience some degree of anxiety or nervousness when public speaking and 10% of those people are terrified. Speaking in public is one of the most common fears. In fact, in a recent study, results found that people feared public speaking more than they feared death!

It’s not uncommon for many of us to experience some degree of nervousness or anxiety when giving a presentation or speech, especially to a large audience or for an important sales pitch. However, research has found some presenters could be suffering from glossophobia, a condition where a person is unable to control their nerves and has extremely which can result in uncontrollable trembling, sweating, and a racing heartbeat.

When asked to deliver a presentation, many people experience the flight or fight response; a psychological response when we feel we are in danger or under attack. This response is often exaggerated and our fears of what might happen become unreasonable.

Glossophobia is not exclusively related to speaking in large groups, it can affect smaller group settings. Not only does this harm performance in these environments but it will make it difficult for sufferers to express ideas and thoughts.

Physical symptoms that develop from glossophobia can cause the person to strain while trying to speak, their voice may quiver and shake, and they may repeat hesitations such as ‘umm’ or ‘ah’, followed by pauses. This can cause the person to feel uncomfortable and anxious, worsening the symptoms.

Practical tips for overcoming glossophobia

Here are some useful tips that focus on public speaking or presentations and can reduce your fear:

  • Know your material – Practice makes permanent. Practising your material will enhance confidence as we are more comfortable with the content. Give special focus to the introduction to get you off to a strong start
  • Practice often and aloud – Many presenters fail to complete a full rehearsal before standing in front of an audience. Once you’re comfortable with the timings and content, you won’t need to focus on what you’re going to say next.
  • Record your presentation – You might not like what you sound like, but this is a great way to see and hear what you’re saying, rather than what you think you say! You can make notes on changes that can be made and repeat the process.
  • Use your colleagues – Practice with your colleagues, you’ll get accurate feedback and you will overcome some of that anxiety before the event.
  • Prepare possible audience questions – Review your content and gather a list of possible questions an audience might ask. Make sure you think about the really difficult questions, not just the easy and most obvious ones.
  • Don’t script your presentation – if you’re trapped in your presentation or speech with no room for manoeuver, you might find a forgetful moment could spiral out of control and you’ll struggle to get back on track. You are much better off knowing the essence of what you want to say.
  • Understand your audience – will you be addressing a group of experts or one that knows little about the topic? Being aware of your audience will help you think about the type of questions and interactions you’ll have. It’s more than likely you’ll be more knowledgeable than your audience!
  • Don’t rush! – As an audience member, it’s distracting and difficult to engage when a presenter talks too fast. People tend to talk more quickly when they are nervous, so try to make a conscious effort to slow down and break where appropriate.
  • Don’t say how nervous you are – Don’t use your anxiety as a talking point for your presentation. It’s surprisingly difficult to tell when a presenter is nervous! Dwelling on it will just serve to exacerbate your anxiety. Be confident, even if you feel anything but.
  • Familiarise yourself with the room – Arrive early and walk yourself around the room. Practice your speech if you have time and imagine the audience in front of you. Check equipment works to reduce the likelihood of technical issues.

Overcome Glossophobia – The medical term for fear of public speaking
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