Conquering Your Fear of Public Speaking


You enter the office, ready to rock another day – your boss loves you, you have upward momentum, and are well on your way to that next promotion. Your day starts off well and your boss once again hints that that promotion may be just around the corner – you’ve never been more in the clouds. But then, at the afternoon team meeting, your stage comes tumbling down when your boss designates you to speak on behalf of the organization at an upcoming conference.

Sure, the idea of a few days at a luxury hotel on the company’s dime is appealing – but all you can think about is how nauseous you feel at the idea of having to speak in front of all those people. Your palms are sweaty, you feel faint. There’s no getting past this fear of public speaking.

Except that there is – and you must if you want to move forward in your career.

About the Fear of Public Speaking

The fear of public speaking – also known as glossophobia – is the number one fear in the United States according to numerous studies on the subject of popular fears, with as much as 75 percent of the population experiencing this fear in some form. Statistically speaking, gender is not a factor as, reportedly, 73 percent of men suffer from this anxiety compared to 75 percent of women.

Notably, glossophobia is not the same thing as nervousness about public speaking – it refers to a severe condition and reaction in anticipation or reaction to speaking in front of people.

Interestingly, sufferers of glossophobia aren’t afraid of speaking in front of the masses – commonly, sufferers react to even just small groups of two or three people.

There is not necessarily one specific cause of this fear, as it is often rooted in one’s early experiences. For example, you may have, as a child in school, made a classroom presentation that did not go well. Perhaps you tripped on your way to receive your kindergarten diploma, causing an ongoing fear of public humiliation. While often the cause is rooted in early experiences, this is not always the case – people can develop this fear at any point during their lifetime.

There are many symptoms of glossophobia, some of which include:

  • Severe anxiety at the mere thought of standing up or speaking in front of a group
  • Propensity to avoid events or social gatherings that require appearing and/ or speaking with or in front of numerous participants simultaneously
  • Nausea (associated with public speaking or appearances)
  • Sweating (associated with public speaking or appearances)
  • Dizziness (associated with public speaking or appearances)
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure (associated with public speaking or appearances)
  • Dry mouth (associated with public speaking or appearances)

Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

For most of us, speaking in front of a group – whether it be a group of 1,000 or three people – is a daily reality. Even if we do not need to speak at conferences or events, we likely do need to participate in a professional setting for team meetings or personally at social gatherings at a minimum. Public speaking and appearances are a must and avoiding them is simply not healthy, let alone a plausible lifestyle… which means that we must overcome this fear.

There are numerous ways of doing this. Many people recommend simply putting yourself in the scene of your fear and practicing through forums such as Toastmasters. Others recommend hypnotherapy or a more medicinal approach. There are plenty of ways to conquer your fear, but there is no singular method that is uniformly the right approach for everyone.

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