Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking or of speaking in general. This might be one of the most widely-shared phobias among people. Strange enough, the thoughts that race through one’s mind when called on to speak is not really the fear of what they will say but rather the fear of silence. Those seconds of quiet that feel like hours!
Among all mammals, humans are unique in having a gift of speech. It seems like such a natural ability. From toddlers, our first words are applauded to the day we die, when our last words are remembered by those who give the eulogies.
How can one begin to overcome the fear of speaking in public?
Some suggestions are:
1. Of course, know your topic. The best topic to start with may be yourself.
2. Get organised. It’s not a crime to have notes. Prepare notes in a way that you will be able to use on the day. Do a little bit of homework about where you will be speaking.
3. Be prepared. That sounds obvious but most people do not spend enough time in adequate preparation. Part of preparation is physical practice. Get comfortable with talking to yourself and talking to an audience will feel great
4. Tackle those specific things that worry you most. That means practice in those areas. Ask yourself what is the very worst that could happen and smile about it! It’s usually not a life at stake.
5. Don’t keep saying, “I hope it will be OK. I hope I won’t forget.” Rather, close your eyes for a moment and see yourself being calm and collected, talking to an audience that really wants to hear you. Visualise your success. 6. Breath. Yes, breath consciously for a while. If we are anxious, we tend to breath shallowly. That makes things worse. Take some slow, deep breaths. Seriously.
7. Now, as hard as it may seem, focus on what you are saying and not on the audience. This does not mean don’t engage the audience at times but concentrate on what you are saying so that you can put out of your mind what the audience is doing. They are probably not doing anything to harm you. Most audiences want you to succeed.
8. Silence is your friend. Five seconds feels like an hour to the speaker. Learn to love the spaces in between the words and not the words only. At the beginning of your talk, plan for some silences and get used to it from the start. It’s a good thing.
9. Be kind to yourself and recognise what you did well. There will always be something you could have done better but find the things you did well first!
10. Befriend a good speaker! Soon you will be winning all the trophies!