Got to make a presentation? Make a wedding speech? Say something at an event? Nervous? How AVPT Global can help you right now with the fear of public speaking.
Tim T Dingle BSc (Hons) MIBiol PGCE MBA
Chief Development Officer, Academy of Vocational and Professional Training
Having trained hundreds of people in brilliant public speaking (and many more to be Standup comics) I am often asked about the causes of Glossophobia. This is a type of speech anxiety and is most commonly the fear of public speaking or of speaking in general. An estimated 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety and nervousness when public speaking. I am lucky and don’t suffer- whatever size the audience. The good news is it can be cured and overcome.
The more specific symptoms of speech anxiety can be grouped into three categories: verbal, physical and non-verbal. The verbal symptoms include, but are not limited to a tense voice, a quivering voice, and vocalised pauses, which tend to comfort anxious speakers.
The symptoms I see the most in training are the physical ones. These result from the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system responding to the situation with a fight-or-flight adrenalin reaction. Since the sympathetic system is all-or-nothing, adrenaline secretion produces a wide array of symptoms at once – all of which are supposed to enhance a student’s ability to fight or escape a dangerous scenario. These symptoms include acute hearing, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, increased perspiration, increased oxygen intake, stiffening of upper back muscles and the classic dry mouth. None of which are much good when you are about to give a wedding speech. The good news is they can be relieved with training and some skilled guidance.
Public speaking experts agree that one of the most important steps in preparing for a speech is practice. Yet after giving the same speech so many times, it can be difficult to maintain an authentic voice, especially once nerves kick in. More than anything, a successful speech hinges on your ability to know your audience and establish a connection. Shape your speech around a subject that you genuinely care about and try to focus on what you have to offer your audience.
Your concentration will naturally shift away from what is at stake for you personally, calming your nerves and allowing you to connect to your audience in a real way. Then, tell a story. Take the audience on a journey. While there are many aspects that will contribute to the success of your speech, it is the authentic, heartfelt moments that will be remembered most.
The importance of learning to speak in front of an audience is undeniable; invariably intertwined with leadership, motivation, and change. While Glossophobia is common, in fact the most common phobia in the UK, it is certainly a fear that can be overcome. But the power of spoken word is reason in itself to push past that fear.
So remember that nerves are natural: use your nerves to propel you through the speech, and know that your physical response to stress will only make the speech all that much more rewarding once you finally step down from that stage. Remember to be authentic: pick a topic that you truly care about, and the audience will be stirred to care as well. And finally, don’t be afraid to aim big. You were chosen to speak for a reason, and you have a meaningful story to tell. So take slow, rhythmic breaths and change the world- and take this course in conquering your fear of public speaking!