How to Overcome Shyness Social Anxiety and Fear of Public Speaking

How to Overcome Shyness Social Anxiety and Fear of Public Speaking

The fear of public speaking is very common, it has its own name – Glossophobia. If you’re like millions of people all over the world, the thought of getting up in front of a crowd and speaking, even for only a minute or two, causes feelings of anxiety or even terror. But sometimes in our careers or personal lives, public speaking is necessary. It’s a valuable skill to have in the workplace and improving your public speaking can give you a serious boost of confidence. Read on to learn more about the origins of public speaking fears and how you can work to get over them. 

Why Are So Many People Afraid Of Public Speaking?

Some scientists believe that glossophobia stems from a fear of being watched. This fear is ingrained into our DNA, as it can keep us safe from the watchful eye of potential predators or enemies. Fear comes from a part of our brains called the amygdala, and the amygdala kicks in our fight or flight response. This is why public speaking is so scary for so many people. When you get up to speak in front of a group, you may have dozens or even hundreds or thousands of sets of eyes focused directly on you. Few things are so directly frightening to the human brain. Public speaking essentially feels like a predator attack.

Even though public speaking fear is a part of our DNA, this doesn’t mean you can’t overcome this feeling. After all, you logically know that no one in your audience is going to get up and attack you, and the people in the crowd are certainly not predators. And this is the first step towards getting past your fear. Realize that your brain is trying to protect you from a nonexistent threat and gently dismiss this fear as unrealistic. 

Another aspect of public speaking that brings out our worst fears is the thought of being judged by our fears and messing up in front of everyone. Mistakes are inevitable, but preparing yourself for them can help put your mind at ease. And it’s important to remember that so many people are afraid of public speaking and that it’s actually pretty unlikely that someone is judging you. In fact, they’re likely quite impressed that you’re brave enough to get up there in front of them in the first place!

If you’re able to recognize that many of these fears, while real, stem from irrational thoughts, you’ll be better able to work past them. Focus instead on honing your annunciation and speaking skills and becoming an expert on the topic you’re speaking about.  

The Best Ways To Tackle Your Public Speaking Fear

Though public speaking can be anxiety-inducing, there are a lot of ways that you can prepare yourself and ease your worry. Here are some of the best ways to beat your fear and get up there in front of the crowd. 

  1. Be knowledgeable, prepared, and organized. It’s rare that you’ll have to speak extemporaneously. This means you’ll have plenty of time to research the topic your speaking about, write and perfect your speech, and make sure it sounds absolutely perfect. And remember, when speaking, focus on what you’re saying instead of directly on the audience and their reactions. 
  2. Take a class. Many community colleges and business schools offer public speaking classes. Taking one of these classes will allow you to practice your skills in a judgment-free zone. Chances are, many of your classmates are facing the same fear you are, and can help you by offering critiques and tips about your speaking style. In addition, these classes are taught by real pros, who can give you useful pointers about getting over your fear and building your skills.
  3. Practice. Go over your speech as much as you can before your event. Practice in front of friends or loved ones, in front of the mirror, or simply out loud. Remember the general message you’re trying to get across so that if you do stumble, you can pick up where you left off easily, even if you don’t remember the exact words that come next. 
  4. Visualize success. Imagine getting up there, speaking flawlessly, and delivering a great speech to an enthralled crowd. Though this might not be exactly how it happens in reality, it can give you a boost of confidence. On the flip side, you can also visualize messing up but recovering quickly and smoothly. This can prepare your brain just in case a mistake does happen. 
  5. Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Many people have been in the exact place you are, so it’s important to remember that, even if you do make a mistake, people probably are admiring you for just getting up the courage to speak in front of a crowd. Even the pros mess up now and then, but it’s how you recover that counts. A moment of silence doesn’t equal failure. If you stumble, take a deep breath, center yourself, and keep your mind on the topic.
  6. Stop overthinking it. Your fears of being judged, shamed and ridiculed likely have no basis in reality. After all, the goal of your speech is to help and inform your audience. You aren’t doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for them, so stop thinking about yourself!
  7. Have water on hand. If your throat or mouth starts to get dry, it can be distracting. Water can help to prevent this while allowing you to take a pause and gather your thoughts while you sip.
  8. Don’t rush through it. Even though you want to get it done, rushing through your speech, failing to make eye contact, or acting stiff can actually make you seem more nervous. Instead, calm down, speak with intention, make eye contact with audience members, and, if possible, walk around or move your hands while speaking. 
  9. Use visual aids – charts, graphs, PowerPoints, or whiteboards can sometimes help to take the focus directly off you, which can help you feel more relaxed. 

Public speaking doesn’t have to be frightening. Follow these tips to get started on the path to getting over your fear and becoming a public speaking pro!