Strong communication skills are helpful in almost every facet of life. Whether you want to develop a career as a public speaker, engage in a political debate or gain confidence among your peers; public speaking is essential. However, speaking in front of a crowd is a nerve-wracking experience for millions of people.
For some people, anxiety or a slight fear of public speaking can turn into a full-blown phobia, clinically known as glossophobia. People with glossophobia can feel overwhelmed by the mental and physical effort of speaking publicly and it can cause different problems in the affected person’s life. Fortunately, different strategies can help you overcome glossophobia and improve your public speaking skills.
This article looks at the reasons and causes of glossophobia, and offers some effective public speaking tips to help anyone master the courage to speak in front of a crowd. We also look at the use of beta blockers & other anxiety medications and their effectiveness in overcoming glossophobia.
What Is Glossophobia?
Glossophobia is a medical term that refers to an intense phobia or fear of public speaking. This fear of public speaking is verycommon, affecting as many as 40% of Americans . Glossophobia is not a chronic condition or a dangerous disease, however.
For those affected by Glossophobia, speaking in public (or just the thought of doing so) typically triggers intense anxiety and feelings of discomfort. With that, you may start to uncontrollably tremble, sweat, and experience a racing heartbeat. You might also get the overwhelming urge to walk away (or run) completely from the stress-inducing situation.
As a social anxiety disorder, the effects of glossophobia might extend beyond the occasional nervousness or worry. It might cause an intense fear that’s out of proportion to the thought or physical effort required to speak in public. Glossophobia can also get worse over time and may interfere with your normal functions and/or career tasks.
Is Glossophobia (Fear of Public Speaking) The Number One Fear In The World?
You’ve probably heard that most people fear public speaking more than death. While that may sound crazy, the vast majority of people in the world rank glossophobia as their number one fear. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, glossophobia affects about 75% of people worldwide .
For some people, that simply means feeling uncomfortable when speaking to a group of people. For others, it’s the fear of speaking to even one person if they have the power to evaluate your performance; like a supervisor, professor, or interviewer.
Public Speaking Anxiety Symptoms
When faced with a situation where you have to give a presentation or speak in public, most people experience a fight-or-flight response. This is your body’s way of preparing to defend itself against perceived threats. This threat response is biologically programmed into us, and was a natural response to threats in nature that our ancestors likely faced constantly. Although we may live in a more civilized and (broadly speaking) safer world today, our biological responses and bodily processes still remain as if a tiger attack was just as likely as anything else.
If we can understand the triggers of this ‘threat response’ underlying our public speaking fears, then we can perhaps develop a glossophobia prevention and treatment strategy.
When our bodies feel threatened, the brain becomes hyper-alert and prompts the release of hormones like adrenaline. This increases the energy and blood sugar levels in the body, causing our heart rate and blood pressure to rise. It’s at this point that we see common flight-or-flight/anxiety symptoms such as :
- Rapid heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Vomiting or nausea
- Hyperventilating or shortness of breath
- Urge to escape & get away
Beta Blockers For Public Speaking: Do They Work?
If you’re suffering from severe glossophobia and it’s interfering with your daily schedule, it’s best to consult a medical professional. A doctor, therapist or psychologist can help you develop an effective treatment plan tailored to your needs. Fortunately, most people can overcome their glossophobia using cognitive behavioral therapy, which would consist of working with a therapist/CBT practitioner to identify the root causes of their phobia.
When therapy fails to relieve any glossophobia symptoms, your doctor might prescribe pharmaceutical solutions such as beta-blockers to help treat your anxiety issues. Beta-blockers are normally used in treating cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, chest pains, and some heart conditions . These medications limit the release of adrenaline and stress hormones in your body.
Because of how beta-blockers influence your body, many health professionals recommend them for treating performance anxiety and glossophobia symptoms. Some recent research into public speaking shows that performers actually experience physical glossophobia symptoms because of the adrenaline that their brain pumps into their bloodstream when on stage .
By using beta-blockers to limit the release of the stress hormones in your body, you are preventing your heart rate from spiking, maintaining low blood pressure and helping to hold off performance anxiety symptoms. However, using beta-blockers come with a risk of developing dependency and withdrawal symptoms that cause issues like high blood pressure .
So, while beta-blockers are safe for public speakers & performers looking for a quick solution to glossophobia, it’s wise to incorporate natural beta blocker alternatives for anxiety in order to be able to consistently perform for the long run. I constantly recommend the PerformZen supplement as a natural performance anxiety solution that can alleviate your physical glossophobia symptoms without developing dependency issues in the long run .
10 Public Speaking Tips To Help With Glossophobia
Many famous people have long struggled with glossophobia, ranging from politicians to actors and presidents. Warren Buffet, for instance, admitted in an interview that he was scared of speaking in public early in his career . The successful investor and chairperson of Berkshire Hathaway had to overcome his glossophobia to achieve his full potential.
Another extreme case of glossophobia was Mahatma Gandhi. According to an article published in The Atlantic, Gandhi had such a severe case of glossophobia that he froze and ran out of the courtroom during his first case as a young lawyer . Fortunately, Gandhi managed to overcome his fears over time and turn them to his advantage.
But how did Gandhi, Warren Buffet, and others overcome their fear of public speaking?
If you’re faced with similar public speaking problems, there are several public speaking tips you can use to overcome your glossophobia and master the courage to address a crowd. These public performance anxiety tips might not make you have the exact same results as Gandhi or Buffet (with your speeches or bank account), but having solid public speaking skills will serve you continuously throughout your life and career. Here are our 10 tips:
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
You don’t expect an athlete to win the Olympic gold without putting in hours of practice or rehearsal. And while your public speaking goals might be a little more modest than those of Olympic athletes, you will still have to put in the time if you want to get better at it. From creating a decent structure, storytelling, or ending compellingly, you’ll need to take note of your strengths and weaknesses at the end of every presentation.
A little practice or rehearsal can go a long way in helping you reduce that shaky feeling of performing in front of an audience. Preparing and rehearsing your speech will also help you get the timing right when delivering your speech. Of course, practice might be a pain in some cases, but nothing beats practice when preparing for a public speaking event.
Instead of letting fear build up in your body when you’re worried about giving a speech, take up the challenge early enough by starting your rehearsal with plenty of time to spare. Proper practice will help you time the message well and ensure you cover all the key elements without making things appear rushed.
Famed keynote speaker and best-selling author Brian Tracy says the best way to combat glossophobia is to “prepare your speech so well that you can answer any possible question the audience may throw at you” . You’ll want to be prepared well for your presentation or speech so that you have ready answers for whatever surprise question that might be thrown your way. This isn’t always possible, but it’s a good mindset & approach to keep in mind while practicing.
2. Perform A Full Trial Run-Through/Rehearsal of your talk
This is a direct follow-up to the first tip on practice. I know it’s time-consuming, but practicing for your speech is the best way to reduce your anxiety and nervousness level ahead of your presentation. Of course, speech planning can be a nightmare with a busy schedule, but your presentation will not be as impactful without proper preparation.
Public speaking experts recommend writing down your whole speech and polishing up every minor detail until everything looks great without any unnecessary details . I also recommend performing a ‘mock’ performance in front of your family, friends, or colleagues. You can simply ask someone to film your speech performance using a smartphone and look at it to identify any quirks or lines that are not flattering.
If you’re not close to anyone who you can run your speech by; talking in front of a mirror, wall, or indoor plant also works. You’ll want to talk loudly when rehearsing your speech ahead of a live event in order to memorize the key points and deliver them easily. Just writing down your speech without rehearsing it verbally usually isn’t enough.
3. Arrive Early At Venue & Mentally Conquer The Environment
According to celebrated public speaker, trainer, and author Michael Virardi, arriving early at the venue before going up on stage dramatically reduces stress . Try and arrive at least two hours before you’re scheduled to be on the stage in order to give yourself enough time to find your bearings, get a feel for the room and focus on your speech delivery. If you arrive before the other speakers start taking the stage, you’ll be able to walk around the stage and visualize your audience and performance in the space; a great way to reduce your anxiety.
Speakers that arrive only minutes before they’re set to take the stage are often unprepared and flustered. This carries through to your presentation and your audience might feel like your speech is rushed. The hosts might also notice your lack of preparation if you don’t seem confident enough while on the stage.
For larger events, arriving early or visiting the venue ahead of the event will give you enough time to iron out technical difficulties like video, sound, and lighting control. Whether you’re working with a single technician or a large team, arriving early allows you to meet your crew and test the equipment. This can make a huge difference in how you deliver your speech.
More importantly, arriving early helps you to see & meet your audience in advance. This is a crucial step in mentally conquering your environment, which goes a long way in reducing your anxiety levels. The room might not fill up until a few minutes into the presentation, but you can build a rapport with the proactive audience that tends to arrive early.
4. Perform Breathing Exercises
Some breathing exercises have proven effective in dealing with the onset of the physical symptoms caused by your body’s response to stress . When you’re exposed to stressful situations like public speaking, your breathing patterns change. Typically, you’ll take small shallow breaths using your shoulders instead of the diaphragm. This breathing style disrupts the gaseous balance in your body and is not good for blood flow.
Hyperventilating or shallow over-breathing can intensify feelings of anxiety by prolonging the physical symptoms of stress. As such, controlling your breathing patterns can help minimize these symptoms. When you’re relaxed, you breathe through your nose slowly and gently.
Deliberately mimicking a relaxed breathing pattern can help to calm your nervous system . One way you can do that is by invoking a deep breathing technique known as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing. Deep diaphragmatic breathing encourages the full exchange of oxygen in your body, which helps to slow your heartbeat and stabilize your blood pressure.
5. Develop A Pre-Performance Routine
Many CEOs, actors, singers, comedians, and other successful celebrities have some type of pre-performance ritual before getting on the stage or going into important engagements. But why?
Does it mean that most public speakers or celebrities that have pre-performance rituals are superstitious or is it just for the warm-up? Well, “Psyched Up” author Daniel McGinn believes there’s a strong link between pre-performance rituals and mental preparedness, which is essential in effective public speaking .
If you’re too relaxed while on the stage, you risk boring your audience. For instance, if you’re taking long pauses, talking at a monotonous slow pace, and strolling on the stage, it might seem like you’ve forgotten why you’re there. Additionally, if you are over-stressed, you’re likely to speak too rapidly, making you seem inexperienced or unprofessional.
Any type of pre-performance routine will enhance your performance, put you in the right mind frame and help you combat anxiety . While such rituals might seem superstitious, research suggests that it psyches you up, helping to focus your concentration and energy. Essentially, a pre-performance ritual helps puts you into your optimal performance zone. However, your routine needs to be unique to you and without any negative thoughts.
6. Join A Public Speaking Class
Whether you’re a seasoned public speaking veteran accustomed to delivering speeches to massive crowds, or you’re relatively new at speaking to people, taking a public speaking class is highly beneficial. A good public speaking class can teach you key communication skills that can help you achieve different goals.
For most people, learning how to deliver a speech in public is what comes to mind when they think about public speaking classes. In reality, a good public speaking class is designed to teach you essential communication skills that can be useful in everything from speech delivery at a family gathering to presenting ideas at work.
Of course, there are different public speaking courses available today, each with its unique benefits. That includes professional speaking classes, motivational speaking courses, and corporate or executive speaking classes.
7. Get ‘Into Your Body’
Getting into your body simply means taking on some physical exercises before your speech performance. Some people like to burn off energy by doing some yoga, cardio, or taking long walks. Whenever you feel the anxiety building up in your body ahead of a big presentation, play a basic yoga routine video on YouTube and burn some energy.
Research shows that physical activity makes your heart pump faster and stimulates the release of endorphins in your brain . The endorphins interact with your brain’s receptors, helping to reduce any pre-presentation anxiety that you might have. Fortunately, yoga can increase your heart rate variability, which increases the body’s ability to handle stress .
Regular yoga practice can also make you more resilient towards stressful situations and change how you react to physical anxiety symptoms like trembling and heart palpitations . The yoga exercises teach your brain to flexibly adapt to change easily, which is essential in building the stress resilience required to overcome glossophobia.
8. Try The Stoic ‘Fear Setting’ Exercise
You’ve probably heard that visualizing positive results can help you succeed in your endeavors. However, there’s another powerful approach that involves visualizing the worst scenario and coming to terms with it. That’s what stoic fear-setting is all about.
Recently made popular by best-selling author Tim Ferris in his TED talk , stoic fear-setting is a powerful reflection exercise structured to help you view decisions more clearly without letting fear hold you back. For Ferris, stoicism is an operating system that helps you to thrive in high-stress situations and make better decisions. However, Ferris didn’t create the concept of stoic fear-setting as its origins date back thousands of years ago .
The fear-setting exercise involves three stages:
Step 1: Ask yourself what could go wrong
Instead of shying away from negative thoughts, dive in steadfastly and define everything that may go wrong during your presentation. For instance, you might feel so anxious that you might forget your speech or make mistakes when presenting.
What will happen then? Be clear on the worst things that may happen during your speech/presentation and then define the steps you’ll need to take to prevent that from happening. That might mean practicing harder than ever before, doing yoga for 30 minutes daily before your rehearsal, or meditating. You might even need to get a presentation coach.
Step 2: Ask yourself what could go right
Stoic fear setting is not all about doom. The second part of this exercise involves listing everything you think might go well for you in your speech/presentation. Even when you don’t ace every last detail of your presentation, at least you’ll gain more experience and improve. Take your time and list all the potential benefits of trying to deliver your speech.
Step3: Ask yourself what will happen if you take action
This part is designed to get you to take action. Clearly outline what will happen if you fail to take action and explore what your life will look like if you don’t do anything. In most cases, your fear of the status quo will exceed the fear of failure, which will push you to take action.
And that’s the crux of the fear-setting exercise. For a thorough guide on fear setting with a more detailed explanation, check out this guide.
9. Try Natural Anxiety Aids
Natural supplements have proven useful in promoting psychological health in recent years. According to psychiatrist Dr. Leslie Madrak, many natural supplements for anxiety work similarly to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), often prescribed for depression and anxiety . These supplements promote a high level of mental clarity, helping alleviate the physical symptoms of glossophobia.
Supplements and/or foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids for instance are best known for cardiovascular health benefits, but research also shows that they can improve your mood and brain function . There are also other supplements like valerian root that boost neurotransmitters like GABA, which promote mental clarity and calmness. GABA plays a key role in anxiety disorders , so its regulation is beneficial in treating public speaking anxiety or glossophobia.
For additional assistance with overcoming glossophobia and physical symptoms of public speaking anxiety, I often recommend the PerformZen supplement to my clients & readers. PerformZen helps you to remain calm under stress by manipulating GABA neurotransmitters in your brain while boosting your mental focus through combining vitamin B6 and magnesium . It calms your nerves and improves your cognitive performance, making you sharp when it matters most. I even reviewed PerformZen in a recent article & interviewed the founder (as well as secured a limited-time discount for PerformanceAnxiety.com readers). See the review & grab your discount here.
Note From The Author: I reached out to PerformZen, creators of the Calm Performance Formula supplement that I use and have recomended to many of my clients who struggle with anxiety, and they agreed to offer PerformanceAnxiety.com readers an exclusive discount of $7 off your first order!
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10. Stay Hydrated… But Not Overly Caffeinated
When you get on stage, keep a glass of water close to you in case you need it. Sometimes adding some lemon to the water also helps as the citrus acid helps to breakup mucus that may lead to a sore throat . Lemons are also rich in antioxidants, which increase salivation to lubricate your mouth and boost your immune system.
Avoid sugary beverages before you speak. These can make your mouth dry and make it hard to speak clearly at loud volumes. Also, remember to drink water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated and your mind sharp, especially after exercising.
Final thoughts on preparing for your upcoming speech
Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, can be terrifying for most people whether you’re a professional performer or a student starting to build a career. Luckily, the public speaking tips explained above can help you offset the worst symptoms of public speaking anxiety. All that’s left to do now is wish you luck with your speech: break a leg!
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