The capability to speak and communicate our ideas and thoughts to the public is the primary requirement for success across all aspects of life. If you are an excellent public speaker, you can advance in your career, make new friends, and grow your business. Public speaking can help you put your ideas across different minds and move people to action on issues that influence them as well as society.
To do any of that, you would be required to stand in front of an audience and deliver a pitch, an idea, or a body of work. Often, the only thing that stands between your thoughts and your audience is fear.
There is a particular term referring to the fear of speaking in front of a broad audience; it is called Glossophobia. Fear of public speaking is often incorrectly cited as people’s biggest fear. While Glossophobia is not among the most feared phenomenon, it is pervasive among people as 25 percent of them report experiencing it.
Even the lightest form of Glossophobia can have profound effects on people’s lives. It can hold you down and prevent you from presenting your ideas, speaking about your life, and offering solutions to problems that might have an effect on many lives. As a result, the fear of public speaking can hamper your growth both personally and professionally.
Meanwhile, any negative experiences in public speaking can also make you less likely to speak in public again. Fear teaches you to avoid risky situations.
What is the Reason Behind the Fear of Public Speaking?
Fear of public speaking originates somewhere from how the speaker feels inside when they are placed in front of a large crowd. There are many reasons why someone might avoid speaking in public. According to the theories exploring the fear of public speaking, there are four contributing factors behind Glossophobia:
When presented with anything intimidating, our body initiates fight or flight response. Either we are supposed to face our fears and go through whatever situation has been rapping on our doors, or we can take a shortcut and escape. This hyperarousal leads us to experience anxiety and in turn, hampers our ability to speak in front of the public.
According to some researchers, some people experience higher anxiety across different situations and therefore are more prone to feeling anxious about public speaking as well. For others, the concern is limited to public speaking. However, the physiological signs of fear they experience are similar.
Additionally, some people go through what researchers call anxiety sensitivity or the fear of fear. It merely means that in addition to the dismay of public speaking, people get worried about the anxiety about public speaking and how it is going to affect them.
The second factor affecting people’s ability to speak in front of an audience is their own beliefs about public speaking. The origin of the fear lies in people’s ability to overestimate the stakes of presenting their ideas to other people. They think that speaking in front of so many people will dampen their credibility and image and ruin their chance to get to the audience.
Some theories lay out the distinctions between performance orientation and communication orientation. Performance orientation means that you see the public speaking as something that requires special skills, and the public acts as a judge who are evaluating how good of a speaker you are.
In contrast, communication orientation means that the primary purpose of public speaking is to express your ideas, present information, or tell your stories. The use of communication orientation is to get through your audience the same way you get through them during everyday conversation.
If you look at the conversations you have had with people as public speaking; then you are already halfway through expressing yourself clearly and communicate effectively. However, when the motive behind your public speaking shifts from being heard and understood to being evaluated, the anxiety tends to get higher.
While there are naturally anxious people or people who don’t believe they are good at public speaking, some cases are daunting enough to make most of us antsy.
These situations include:
Lack of Experience: In order to do anything, the experience is required. If you have not presented yourself in front of the public before, you are more likely to feel anxious.
Status Difference: When you are about to speak in front of an audience that you think has higher status (e.g., people at your workplace in more senior positions or groups of accomplished professors), you may feel a sense of fear within your body.
Degree of Evaluation: If there is a real or imaginary evaluation component to the situation, the fear grows stronger.
New Ideas: Sharing ideas that have not been shared in the public yet can lead to a higher degree of anxiety. You may worry about how people are going to receive your ideas.
New Audience: Even if you have experience with public speaking, presenting in front of a new and unknown audience can send chills down your spine. You might be in the habit of talking to professionals in your area of expertise; however, when your target audience shifts, your confidence might be a little shaky.
The final factor that affects your public speaking performance is your skills. A lot of people consider themselves good public speakers. Nevertheless, there is always room for growth. To stand out, you should be focusing on honing your skills instead of depending on natural talent. There are many ways one could approach to enhance their skill set. As your competency increases, so does your confidence, which is a fantastic antidote for fear.