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The Fear of Public Speaking: 10 Tips to Beat Glossophobia

The Fear of Public Speaking: 10 Tips to Beat Glossophobia

Presenting

Lawrence Haywood 05 Jul 2022 8 min read

We can say with some conviction that you are a sufferer of glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.

How? Well, yes, because you’re reading this article, but also because all of the stats point to it. According to one European study, an estimated 77% of people could suffer from a fear of public speaking.

That’s over ¾ of the world who are just like you when they’re in front of a crowd. They shake, blush and quiver on stage. Their hearts go a mile a minute and their voice cracks under the pressure of being the sole person tasked to get a message across.

Let’s not make bones about it – public speaking can be really scary, but any fear can be overcome with the right approach.

Here are 10 geat tips to crush your glossophobia and start delivering speeches with real confidence.

Beating the Fear of Public Speaking: Preparation

The fear of public speaking starts before you even step foot on stage.

Preparing your speech well is your first defence against Glossophobia. Having a well-thought-out structure, set of notes and accompanying presentation is absolutely crucial to staving off the shakes.

Here are 5 tips to beat the effects of a fear of public speaking.

#1 – Have a Presentation to Take Eyes Off You

Of course, the format of your speech will very much depend on the occasion, but in many cases, you can relieve some of your anxieties by creating a presentation to accompany what you want to say.

Man showing a presentation with graphs to a boardroom full of people
Shift the focus of attention with a neat presentation.

If your fear of public speaking stems from having all eyes on you, then this might be a really good option. It gives your audience something to focus on other than you and also offers some prompts for you to follow.

Keep your presentation simple with these tips:

  • Use words sparingly. Images, videos and charts are way more effective at taking eyes off you and engaging your audience.
  • Try a tried and tested format for your slides, like 10/20/30 or 5/5/5.
  • Make it interactive – giving your audience something to do will always be appreciated.
  • Don’t read directly from your presentation; try and maintain some eye contact with your audience.

#2 – Make Some Notes

Nervousness can lead people to write out their speech word-for-word. More often that not, this is not a good idea.

Scripting a speech can make it feel unnatural and make it slightly more difficult for your audience to focus. It’s better to jog your brain with main ideas in the form of notes.

Typically, for speeches, notes act as prompts to help you if you get stuck. You can take a glance down, find your bearings, and look back to your audience to deliver your speech.

You might find that announcements or things like wedding speeches are slightly different and longer, more detailed notes can be used.

  • Don’t write too small. You need to be able to glance quickly at your notes and understand them.
  • Keep notes short and sweet. You don’t want to be flicking through pages of text trying to find the right bit.
  • Distract your audience with your presentation while you check your next noted point. “As you can see in the slide…”

#3 – Talk To Yourself

Fear of public speaking is not really the fear of speaking in front of a crowd, it’s the fear of not being able to speak in front of a crowd, either by forgetting what to say or stumbling over your words. People are simply afraid to mess up.

A lot of confident public speakers manage don’t get this fear. They’ve done it so often that they know the chances of them messing up are very slim, which in turn gives them the ability to speak more naturally, regardless of the subject.

To help yourself develop a more dependable, confident flow with your public speaking, try speaking out loud to yourself in the manner you would like to do your speech. This could mean speaking more formally, avoiding slang or abbreviations, or even focusing on your pronunciation and clarity.

Try speaking about a topic you’re knowledgeable about to build your confidence, or even try answering potential questions that could arise when you do your speech.

#4 – Record Yourself

Take speaking to yourself to the next level by recording a video of yourself presenting. As awkward as it may feel, it can be really beneficial for seeing how you sound and look to a potential audience.

College teacher explaining chemical formulas on shiteboard during online class
It might be cringey, but you can learn a lot by watching yourself back.

Here are a few things to look at when you watch the recording back:

  • Are you speaking too fast?
  • Are you speaking clearly?
  • Are you using filler words like ‘um’ or ‘like’ too often?
  • Are you fidgeting or doing anything that’s distracting?
  • Are there any important points that you’ve missed?

Try to pick out something good and something not so good each time you record yourself and watch it back. This will help you pick a focus for next time and help build your confidence.

#5 – Practice, Practice and Practice Again

Becoming a confident public speaker really comes down to practice. Being able to rehearse and repeat what you want to say will help relieve some of the stress and can even help you to discover new directions to take your speech that are more interesting or more engaging.

Remember, it won’t be exactly the same every time. Your notes will advise you on your key points and you’ll find that with more and more practice, you will pick up ways to phrase your points that are both natural and make sense.

If you’re particularly nervous about standing up in front of a crowd, ask a trusted friend or family member if you can practice for them. Stand up as you would for the real thing and try it out – it will be easier than you think.

Beating the Fear of Public Speaking: Performance

Getting the practice right is great, but of course Glossophobia hits the hardest when you’re actually on stage, giving your speech.

#6 – Practice Breathing

When you feel nerves creeping in, the effects of the fear of public speaking are usually that your will race, you’ll sweat and your voice might threaten to crack if you try and say anything at all.

When this happens it’s time to take a minute and breathe. It sounds simplistic, but breathing can really calm you down when you’re on stage, leaving you to focus solely on your words and delivery.

Just before you head on to do you speech, try out these quick steps:

  1. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. You should feel your chest rise. Try to focus only on that and how you feel as you breathe in.
  2. Keep your shoulders relaxed and try to let the tension leave your body.
  3. Exhale through your mouth. Focus on how it makes your body move and the senses you are experiencing as you do this.
  4. Repeat the process several times. In through your nose, out through your mouth, focusing on your breathing (not your speech).

💡 Here are 8 more breathing techniques you can try!

#7 – Involve Your Audience

Keeping your audience engaged is a really important part of building your confidence when it comes to public speaking. It’s so much easier to feel like you’re nailing it if you can see that the audience is actively enjoying themselves.

One great way to get that engagement is through interaction. No, this isn’t about singling out audience members for unscripted, painfully awkward banter, this is about asking questions to the crowd and showing their collective responses for everyone to see.

With interactive presentation software, you can create a full slide deck with questions for your audience to answer. They join the presentation on their phones and respond to questions in the form of polls, word clouds and even scored quizzes!

A poll on AhaSlides
Audience response to a poll on AhaSlides.

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Being able to bounce off the crowd is the sign of a confident and experienced presenter. It’s also the sign of a presenter that genuinely cares about their audience and who wants to give them something far more memorable than a standard one-way speech.

#8 – Use Your Nerves To Your Advantage

Think about athletes taking part in a super important sporting event match. Before they take to the field they will, of course, feel nervous – but they use it in a positive way. Nerves produce something called epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline.

We typically associate adrenaline with excitement, and we tend to pick out its positive traits like heightened awareness and increased focus. In reality, excitement and nervousness that produce adrenaline create the same physical reactions in our bodies.

So, with this in mind, here’s something to try: when you next feel nervous about your speech, try thinking about the emotions you’re feeling and consider how similar they might be to feelings of excitement. Think about positive things that will happen once your speech is done and focus on those.

  • Nervous about a class presentation? When your speech is done, so is the assignment – definitely something to feel excited about!
  • Nervous about a wedding speech? When you’ve smashed it, you get to enjoy the wedding and see the reactions of those involved.

Nervousness is not always a bad thing, it can give you that adrenaline rush you need to focus and get the job done.

#9 – Get Comfortable With Pausing

It’s not uncommon for those speaking publicly to fear silences or pauses in their speech, but it’s a perfectly natural part of a conversation or a presentation.

Some speeches and presentations involve intentional pauses, purposely added to emphasise specific words or phrases. These provide what is sometimes called semantic focus.

Purposeful pausing during a speech will do a couple of things. It will…

  1. Give you some time to think of what to say next
  2. Provide you with a second to take a breath and refocus.

If you’re worried about it feeling a bit awkward to take a pause during a speech, then this is the tip for you…

Have a drink.

Keep a glass or easily-opened bottle of water with you during your speech. Between points or while your audience is asking you a question, having a quick drink gives you an opportunity to pause and think over your answer. 

For public speakers who are worried about rambling or tripping over words, this is a really useful thing to try and as long as you aren’t chugging a litre of water between points, your audience won’t even question it.

#10 – Appreciate Your Progress

Public speaking takes time and a lot of practice. Pros have years of experience that has shaped them into the speakers that they are.

As you prepare to do your speech, take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come from your very first attempt to where you are on the big day. You’ve likely put in hours of preparation and practice and it has made you a more confident public speaker with plenty of tricks up your sleeve.

A man getting over his fear of public speaking by practicing with friends
You’ve come a long way, baby.

Start your Speech

The 10 tips we’ve laid out here will help you approach your public speaking with a different mindset. Once you’ve realised where that fear comes from, it’s easy to control it with the right approach both off and on stage.

The next step? Starting your speech! Check out 7 killer ways to start a speech that will instantly dissolve your Glossophobia.

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