Glossophobia: Fear of Public Speaking

As many as 75% of people suffer glossophobia - fear of public speaking. Whether it’s a three-person group or a crowd of a hundred people, that dry-mouth-adrenaline-rush feeling is all too familiar no matter how experienced you are. There’s no escaping it for the most of us, even outside the corporate world - you could even be asked to prepare your maid of honour speech!

What can you do to not look or feel like a nervous wreck? Here are three tips to help you overcome your speech anxiety for scheduled presentations:

Find The Friendly Faces

There are going to be distracting audience members (on their phone, yawning, whispering, shuffling in their seat, etc.) but there will also be those who are engaged, highly engaged. While it’s creepy to stare at one, find a few that you know are interested in what you have to say. They serve as your cheerleaders as they nod their heads at certain phrases and write notes down. This encouragement can be a confidence booster, particularly with longer speeches, so keep your eye contact on them and smile! (And please, don’t picture anyone naked!)

Don’t Overdo the Rehearsals

Write flashcards, practice by yourself in the mirror, ask colleagues/friends for help - do whatever it takes to nail the speech and even comic timings, but don’t sound like a robot as a result of being overly rehearsed. How do you know you’re overly rehearsed? When you kick yourself for messing up the exact rhetoric or syntax.

You know, when in detective shows, how the investigator knows the suspect is lying? When the suspect says their alibi exactly the same way over and over again. Authenticity is what you’re going for and that doesn’t come in the form of perfection. You should be able to know your message inside and out and deliver it in different ways. What if the way you delivered it initially was confusing to the audience and you get a question later on that asks you to re-explain? If you’re finding yourself needing the exact wording you wrote down, you don’t know the material well enough and that’s a different problem.

On the big day itself, have the confidence to add in a sentence or two that wasn’t in your original script to inject more authenticity.

Predict the Qs

You could be advocating for world peace and there would still be negative Nancys and devil’s advocates out there waiting to pounce on the holes in your arguments. Find the holes yourself, anticipate the difficult questions and prepare the answers accordingly.

This is a tedious step but worthwhile in taking the time to do so as you will definitely get more into the weeds of your content and be one step ahead come presentation day. Predicting the questions and preparing the responses is best done by asking friends/trustworthy coworkers to hear your speech and asking them to poke holes intentionally. If you don't do this, you may risk looking ill-prepared despite all the hard work you did in crafting and delivering the speech.

Also, side note, refrain from saying “That’s a good question.” I’ve found this to be slightly awkward/uncomfortable as people may think their question is “not good” if you say it some and not others.