Fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia, is a form of performance anxiety in which a person becomes very concerned that he or she will look visibly anxious, or maybe even have a panic attack, while speaking. According to Anxiety Coach, glossophobia is the most common of all phobias.
Fear of public speaking is most often associated with the fear of being judged by your audience. “I was one of those students that was absolutely mortified of speaking in class…I remember my throat closing up, my skin would get blotchy, and I could never sleep the night before,” says guidance counselor Jennifer Sidelinger.
There are many strategies that can be utilized to overcome glossophobia. Before speaking, it is important to practice what you are going to say. Practice your speech so thoroughly you are almost tired of it, so that if speech is derailed or you temporarily forget where you are in the presentation, it is easier to recollect yourself and get back to the point.
It is also very important to prepare yourself on the day of the public speech. It is important to make sure you get a good night’s sleep, hydrate, and eat healthy and filling meals. It can also help to exercise to relieve muscle tension. All of these things help to control body and mind anxiety. Relaxation strategies such as meditation or yoga can also help with anxiety.
Of course, the strategies for while you are actually performing the speech are most important. It is always important to start strong; leading off with a quiet sentence will never grab the attention of your audience. It also helps to look just above eye level of your audience. Looking up, as if you are addressing the whole room, can relieve the stress of eye contact with your audience.
Though all of these specific startegies help, the best thing you can do is practice. “In tenth grade, I took a speech class which forced me to get up in front of the class four different times and talk,” said Sidelinger. Such classes can be found at most colleges including Emory University, as well as smaller community centers.