Coming Out

On My Fear of Speaking in Front of People

I’ve always had this kind of unnatural fear of speaking in front of people. “Unnatural?”, you might ask. Ummm…a LOT of people hate public speaking.(In fact, 25% of the population actually has an inhibiting fear of speaking in front of people or Glossophobia)

Yeah, I know all that, but I participated in a number of speech and debate clubs. I even won awards, and haven’t lost a single debate. (Arguments have always kind of been my thing.)

So, with my background of memorizing speeches with the right inflections and hand motions, and researching topic after topic to make sure I’m on top of my stuff when I’m going up against my opponent in debate, why do I still get nervous (like sweaty palms nervous) when I speak in front of people?

I’ve always conveyed my thoughts and ideas better through writing. But should speaking my mind always be such a nerve wracking event?

Here’s where I turn to my go-to whenever I have a pressing question: Google.

After reading quite a bit on why communicating our ideas clearly and presenting them in speech in public is vital to success in numerous domains of life. (Duh we all know that already.)

What make us so afraid of Public Speaking? For the most part it’s all in your head.

Fear and anxiety involve the arousal of the nervous system in response to a potentially threatening environment. When confronted with a threat, our bodies prepare for battle. This leads to the emotional experience of fear, and it interferes with our ability to perform comfortably in front of audiences.

The biggest factor for my fear of public speaking is my beliefs about myself as a speak. I’m thinking too much about how I sound to the audience. I worry if I’m saying the right words or if I’m presenting myself correctly, so much so I forget which words I need to say next. If you have a negative view of yourself as a speaker your anxiety levels are sure to spike.

Here are several facts that have helped me realize public speaking doesn’t have to be my biggest fear.

Public speaking doesn’t actually require a certain special skill.

Your audience isn’t your judge evaluating how good of a presenter you are. If you can, think of public speaking as expressing your ideas, presenting information, or telling your story. Think of public speaking the same way as you think about talking to your best friend. It will come more naturally that way

You should probably practice.

As with anything else, experience builds confidence. When you don’t have a lot of stage hours under your belt, you are more likely to experience fear of public speaking.

Try to not think of your audience as judges.

When there is a real or imagined evaluation component to the situation, the fear is stronger. If you are speaking in front of a group of people who have the evaluation forms ready to fill out, you may feel more anxious. So try to ease that anxiety by refusing to think of your audience as judges but more like someone you would converse with on the street.

Sharing your ideas.

If you are sharing ideas that you have not yet shared in public, you may worry more about how people will receive them. When your public appearance involves presenting something new, you may feel more uncomfortable stating your position, taking questions from the audience, or dealing with those audience members who try to poke holes in your newly formed idea. Remember if your idea isn’t widely accepted, if you believe in it that’s all that should matter.

Afraid you aren’t skilled enough.

Another factor that contributes to the fear of public speaking is how skilled you are or aren’t in this area. If you work on your skills instead of relying on any natural talent you may have, you will stand out. Confidence is the most important thing to have when standing up to speak. Faking that confidence is a perfectly fine tactic to use to convince your brain that speaking isn’t as scary as you think it is.

Fear of public speaking can inhibit your growth. It can prevent you from taking risks to share your ideas, thoughts, solutions, and all together important contributions to the world. Each one of us has a voice. What good is that voice if we don’t use it to stand up for what we believe in?


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