Glossophobia: fear of public speaking


The infographic above does a wonderful job in explaining glossophobia  – the fear of public speaking. Lydia Bailey, the infographic’s designer has this to say:

For a lot of people, public speaking is worse than a death sentence. This graphic helps to explain why public speaking is so scary to certain individuals and ways to get over it.

The fear of public speaking is known as “glossophobia”. More Americans report they fear it more than heights, flying, drowning, and small spaces. So what makes this fear so common? The main reason is that they feel that they will be ostracized, which in early days of man would have meant death since collaboration was needed for survival. Even still, people who are socially isolated are found to be 26% more likely to die sooner.

Some people fear it from having past traumatic experiences with public speaking, such as being made fun of in school. 

Much of the anxiety associated with public speaking can be changed by the way a person thinks about it. The problem of thinking that if everything doesn’t go perfectly that it’s a failure should be changed so that the speaker accepts that perfection is impossible and appreciating the elements that do work.

Another problem is that some people believe that just because their previous public speaking attempt went poorly, that they are doomed for failure. The speaker needs to accept that a poor attempt does not mean that every public speaking engagement will go badly. There are other helpful tips to help change the way people feel about public speaking. 

We have talked about this before – how to get better at something, you have to really face it head on and then take steps (littles ones are perfectly fine) to get better.

David Koutsoukis is a leadership and team development specialist who shows leaders how to build exceptional teams through speaking, training and consulting. He has been a professional speaker for more than 10 years, has twice been named WA Speaker of the Year and is a Past National President of the National Speakers Association of Australia.

David contributed to my first book Do What You Say You’ll Do and had a series of tips on public speaking. His tips include:

  1. Get relaxed. Don’t rush.
  2. Smile and enjoy the experience. Tell yourself you’re going to enjoy this time with your people.
  3. Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Be the authentic you.
  4. Have good intention. People will be forgiving of your performance if they know you care about them and your intentions are good.
  5. Stand front and centre of the ‘stage’ in front of your audience. This is the most powerful position.
  6. Make sure people can see you properly and ensure you have good lighting so people can see your face well. You actually sound louder if people can see your face clearly.
  7. Make sure people can hear you properly. Use a good microphone and PA if you need to.
  8. To demonstrate authority: stand directly facing your audience with toes pointing forward. Have arms either both by your side; or one arm by your side with the other across your body with elbow/s bent at right angles; or both arms at right angles across the front of your body. Keep your head still. Gesture with your palms down and fingers together. Use short sharp sentences.
  9. To demonstrate that you are approachable: have an open stance. Let your arms sit naturally. Let you head bob if it needs to. Use open palm gestures. Use flowing sentences.
  10. Speak low and slow. Keep the pitch of your voice as low and slow as this commands more respect from audiences than fast, high-pitched voices. Just think of television newsreaders.
  11. Use Entrainment. Before you speak, pause for about 5 seconds and gain eye contact with a number of people.
  12. Don’t shout. Use a conversational tone.
  13. Avoid too much jargon. People ‘zone out’ when they hear too much ‘corporate speak’.
  14. Questioning Technique. To get involvement and build context ask questions. E.g. Has anyone ever been annoyed by bad customer service?
  15. Progressive Affirmation. Get the audience to nod their head and agree with you after making a point by saying things like; e.g. “Does that make sense?”, “Would you agree with that?”, “Are you with me on this?”
  16. Use exciting words. ‘Exciting’ words such as Sensational, Magic, Brilliant, Outstanding and Fantastic capture people’s attention. e.g. “Your efforts have been outstanding!”
  17. Tell personal stories to make a point. People love a good story and these are often the most memorable part of a speech.
  18. To make your message more engaging and memorable use metaphors – a word or phrase that compares something to something else. e.g. “John is the nicest bulldozer I have ever met.”
  19. Same as a Metaphor but uses ‘like’ or ‘as’ – “Ben’s got a mind like a steel trap!”
  20. Augment your speech with visuals. People remember pictures more than words.
  21. Don’t try and say too much. Remember the phrase “The less you say the more they’ll hear.”

The good news is that glossophobia can be overcome. I coached someone who would vomit prior to getting up to speak. Now, after attending Toastmasters and some good coaching, he is holding his own with ease. It can be done!!!

If you suspect glossophobia is holding you back, do something about it today. Want some ideas on what to do or where to go? Email me today and I’ll shoot you back a list of ideas on where to go, what to do and how to overcome it.

Until next week, happy leading.






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