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Why Your Fear of Public Speaking Doesn’t Have to Hold You Back at Work

A man sitting on a dais in front of a screen, talking to an audience

You’ve heard the expression that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared while campaigning against Herbert Hoover in 1932. 

That’s all fine and good, but these inspiring words actually do very little to calm the nerves of people for whom public speaking is a real phobia. And it is a legitimate phobia. 

Fear of public speaking, known as glossophobia, is a common anxiety that many people experience. How many? 

According to Medical News Today, glossophobia affects 15–30% of people worldwide, and about 10% of individuals with glossophobia report that their condition interferes with daily activities, including work and education.

However, it doesn’t have to! 

As a former glossophobia sufferer, I know firsthand how difficult and damaging it can be to stay in the background, silence your voice, and remain almost invisible in your professional pursuits. Fortunately, I overcame my fear to a resounding success and I know I can help you do the same. 

Like most fears and phobias, glossophobia is just another mindset — and it’s one you can unlearn. 

You gotta love comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. That means at a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.” 

Listen, life’s too short to be afraid of public speaking. So, here are a few tips to help you wrap your head around what it takes to own your voice and broadcast your message to a wider audience…  

The gist of glossophobia

Sometimes, in order to overcome a fear we have to start by understanding it. 

So, here are some things to know about your fear of public speaking… including a few tips to overcome it. 

  • It’s common: As the stats above show, fear of public speaking is widespread. You’re not alone in feeling anxious about speaking in front of others. Recognizing this fact can help normalize your experience and, with any luck, that recognition will start to minimize the fear you’ve built up around public speaking. 
  • Preparation can make a HUGE difference: Sports lovers know that the best offense is a strong defense and the same is true when it comes to preparing to speak before the public. Thoroughly prepare your speech or presentation and ensure you know your material inside and out. Doing so will help increase your confidence while reducing anxiety. Practice your presentation multiple times to feel even more empowered in your message and ability to broadcast it effectively.

Speaking of your message… 

  • Zero in on your message to settle your nerves: Stop thinking about you and shift your focus to your message and its importance. When you concentrate on the value you’re providing to your audience, it can help redirect nervous energy. You have something important to say; step aside and let yourself do it. If nothing else, remind yourself that others will benefit, provided you can communicate the information to them. 

Read: Is fear keeping you from speaking on video? 3 easy ways to practice

  • Start small to stay on top of public speaking scaries: No need to imagine big arenas or TED talk stages when you’re just getting started. Begin by speaking in front of smaller groups or in less formal settings, like workshops. Gradually increasing the size of your audience can help build your confidence over time.
  • Visualize your way to success! Use visualization to imagine yourself speaking confidently and successfully. Visualization can help rewire your brain to associate positive emotions with public speaking. Think of delivering a well-timed joke and the amazing feeling you get when people laugh in response. Imagine yourself beaming beneath a spotlight, poised and actually having a pretty good time!

Read: On-Camera Tips for Introverts 

  • Controlling your breathing puts you in control of anxiety: Practice controlled breathing techniques to manage anxiety. Deep, slow breaths can help calm your nerves and improve your overall composure.
  • Find some friends: Consider joining a public speaking group or taking a public speaking course. These environments provide a supportive space to practice and receive constructive feedback.
  • Nervous energy can be productive:

Sure, it’s not great to feel nervous; however, a certain level of nervousness is natural and can be channeled into enthusiasm and passion for your topic. Rather than think, “I’m so nervous,” recast the emotion in your mind as “I’m so excited/eager/anxious (in a good way) to let people know about x, y, z.” 

Read: 12 Tips to Tackle Your Nerves and Step into the Spotlight

  • Every opportunity teaches something: Embrace any chance to speak in public in order to hone your craft. Overcoming fear, whatever it is, often involves facing it repeatedly and learning from each experience.
  • Trust a pro: Like I said, I’ve been where you are and I know how paralyzing the fear of public speaking can be. Trust me, it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be. I’m here to help and am confident in my ability, experience, and proven strategies to make public speaking something you seize, rather than shy away from. 

I’m Kerry Barrett and I’m the pro you need to make your fear of public speaking a thing of the past. Let’s find your voice and give it the resonance it deserves to help you establish your authority in the workplace and beyond! 
Let’s go!

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