Glossophobia, stage fright, or fear of public speaking — by any name, difficulty with speaking to a group of people is very common. Even experienced public speakers will admit to having “butterflies” in anticipation of a speaking event, but for some people, the fear can be paralyzing. When the fear is too great or becomes so overwhelming that even speaking up in front of a small group of coworkers is avoided, it can become debilitating both socially and professionally.

The fear of public speaking may be associated with social anxiety, but regardless of its roots, it can manifest in the same physical ways as other forms of anxiety-related disorders. Sufferers may experience heart palpitations, sweating, confusion, dizziness or lightheadedness, shortness of breath, digestive distress, and more.

As with all anxiety or mood disorders, simply “snapping out of it” is not an option, but nearly everyone can work to lessen their fear by mastering some new skills. Some people may also benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medications, or a combination of both.

Tips for Building Your Public Speaking Skills

  • Practice: Repeatedly rehearse your speech or presentation out loud. You can ask a friend to be your audience, or video yourself.
  • Familiarity: The more familiar you are with your topic, the more confidently you can speak about it. Do extra research on your topic, even if you don’t include all of the findings in your presentation. A deep understanding will help you feel fully prepared.
  • Visualization: Some of the world’s best athletes and entertainers use visualization techniques prior to a competition or performance. Imagine each step of your upcoming experience, from the moment you arrive at the venue to meeting audience members after the event. Picture yourself delivering your material in a relaxed way, and imagine your audience’s positive response.
  • Organization: Double-check that any visual or audio components of your presentation are organized and in working order.

Also keep in mind that your audience is made up of individuals who most likely want you to succeed. They’ll be able to relate to the pressures of public speaking and will root for you to do well. Stay focused on your material, make eye contact with people in the audience, and remember that even the best speakers don’t always deliver perfect presentations.

Help for Fear of Public Speaking

For those with phobias, it’s difficult to turn their focus away from the physical symptoms of their anxieties. The fear of public speaking can cause sufferers to be overwhelmed by their physical state, unable to think about anything except their trembling hands or shaky voice. Learning to recognize and take control of negative thoughts, and how to change one’s focus, can often be accomplished through CBT. Rather than mentally or physically running away from the fear, people can learn new ways to confront their anxiety and challenge their own thinking, while gaining mechanisms that can help them cope in effective, healthy, and sustainable ways.

Under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional, CBT can be the key for many people to unlock their fears and be on their way to successful public speaking. If you would like to learn more about how Dr. Andrew Rosen and the staff at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders can help you with your fear of public speaking, please contact us for a confidential assessment at (561) 496-1094.

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