According to studies, public speaking is one of the most common fears that people today have. The thought of getting up in front of a group of people and addressing a crowd can be overwhelming even for the most confident of people and the most seasoned professionals. In fact, famed comedian Jerry Seinfeld once put it best when he said “To the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
It is a little dramatic of an interpretation of public speaking, but it is a joke that rings true to many individuals today. There have been a number of tests and studies done on public speaking throughout the years and most of them have come back with overwhelming evidence to point to just how many people today are public speakers. However, as many have already found out, there is little that can be done to avoid public speaking in many careers. No matter how much people tend to resist or despise speaking in front of other people, it seems to be a part of everyday life for many professionals from all different types of industries, but the good news is, there are ways to overcome this fear.
Not everyone is meant to be a professional public speaker, but it doesn’t mean that there are not tactics to consider that can help you get over your fear of public speaking. Keep these approaches in mind as a way to help you get over your fears of speaking in public.
Why Do We Fear Public Speaking?
There is a small percentage of people today who genuinely enjoy public speaking. There is also a small percentage of individual that has a serious fear of speaking in public so much it can be completely debilitating. For most people, they lie somewhere in the middle. They are nervous or uncomfortable about public speaking and don’t like to do it. Some people get the sweats, others butterflies in their stomach while some may actually feel ill.
It can be a difficult topic to digest. Many people simply don’t know why they are afraid of public speaking or why it is so unpleasant. Many of these individuals are rather confident people and don’t understand why standing up and talking in front of others can lead to such fear.
The first and most important thing to understand about public speaking is that many people associate the butterflies in their stomach that they have regarding public speaking as fear. In most cases, this is actually adrenaline, which is why in many cases the symptoms disappear once you start speaking or once the speech is over.
There are some people who feel as though these feelings all stem from evolution and from the fact that men first developed this type of primal fear and need for adrenaline when they were hunted by large predators and ostracized from their group, in other words, fear of public speaking is a basic survival skill. Others may simply fear or be uncomfortable by the idea of being judged or of social ridicule.
Stage fright is another common issue that causes people to fear public speaking as they realize it isn’t just speaking in front of others, but performing in front of others in any capacity that they fear. Individuals who are self conscious and who fear appearing nervous in front of others often also struggle with public speaking. The same goes with those that have experienced past failures or who are not satisfied with their own abilities.
In some individual cases, people have experienced fear of public speaking because they feel as though they are not prepared for the event. No matter what the stem of the fear, this uncomfortableness that comes with public speaking tends to impact many people from all different walks of life.
Address Your Public Speaking Anxiety
You cannot get over your fear of public speaking until you address your public speaking anxiety. There is no way to overcome a fear until you are able to address the fear itself and define what is actually going on. Until you can admit that you have anxiety over public speaking, you will not be able to move forward. If you are open about having anxiety, you will be better equipped to handle your fear head on.
Many times this all starts with changing your perspective. It is a simple task, but one that can actually go a long way in helping any person change the way they look at public speaking. One of the most surprising causes of public speaking fear is actually narcissism. Some people are so obsessed with the way that they look or are being portrayed when they speak, that they don’t focus on their audience and the message that they are delivering to that audience, and that can cause extreme fear.
Before considering some more professional avenues, it may be helpful to begin by refocusing your approach and your goals with your public speaking. If you are focusing on actually helping and educating your audience instead of on your own performance, chances are you will start to see that fear begin to diminish. Always focus on what you are offering your audience instead of what your audience thinks of you personally. If you stop making public speaking all about you and how you look, chances are you will start to find conquering your fear a lot easier.
Consider Public Speaking Training
There are many training programs offered by professionals that can help you overcome your fear of public speaking. There are numerous training seminars that occur year-round — plenty of opportunities to take advantage of professional training. You can train in person with a one-on-one coach, attend a seminar, read a book, listen to audio coaching on tape or even watch online videos and seminars. Professional training is a great step in learning to overcome your fear.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you learn the basics of public speaking approaches, it is time to practice what you have learned from professional training. The more you are able to practice, the better. You can practice in front of a mirror, on your own in private or practice in front of friends. Whatever you do, just make sure you keep practicing.
Once you have started practicing alone, it is time to start practicing in front of smaller groups. You should never go from being afraid of public speaking to jumping into a gig in front of hundreds of people. Find small groups, whether its friends, family or co-workers, and keep growing your audience. Speaking in front of five people will work better for you at first than speaking in front of thousands of people will (though congratulations if you’re offered an opportunity to do so right away!).
Know You Are Not Alone With Fear of Public Speaking Statistics
Knowing you are not alone can be of great comfort to anyone looking to get over their fear of public speaking. The good news for those who are anxious about speaking in public is that there are millions of others who find themselves in the same boat. Here are some statistics to keep in mind whenever you feel overwhelmed about your fear of public speaking:
- Nearly 75% of individuals suffer from speech anxiety, which leads to a fear of public speaking.
- More people are afraid of public speaking than spiders, heights or death.
- Fear of public speaking impacts men and women equally.
- Fear of public speaking is also known as Glossophobia.
- Of all people suffering from some type of phobia, 19% say public speaking is their top fear, making it the most feared phobia in the world.
Keeping these stats in mind can provide anyone with a fear of public speaking with some extra encouragement, as they realize that millions of others also suffer with this condition. This is why there are so many professional resources available today designed to help individuals of all ages and backgrounds address this fear.
These tips and approaches can help anyone get over their fear of addressing a large audience, so that they may be a more confident, poised and polished public speaker.