Public Speaking Phobia
Having a public speaking phobia or glossophobia as it is technically known, is no joke. For many people, there's nothing more frightening or nerve-wracking than having to speak in public. They would rather bury themselves alive than be asked to give a speech.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a phobia is an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects or events.
Therefore a public speaking phobia is the fear of speaking before an audience, also known as stage fright. One way of overcoming stage fright is to understand the origins of the fear. Let's look at some of the common underlying causes.
All people have an innate need for safety. We seek people, places and situations that give us a sense of wellbeing and protection.
Standing before an audience often arouses a sense of anxiety and insecurity. In other words an illogical fear is generated. Our primeval instincts for dealing with fearful situations are two: fight or flight.
You can either stay to defend yourself or run fast and far. Both situations induce certain effects in your body - adrenaline rush, quickened heartbeat, sweating, shallow breathing, stiff muscles and flushed skin which prepare you to fight or run a mile.
Another cause could be a bad public speaking experience that happened to you or somebody else that you observed. That bad memory is so ingrained in your mind that it distorts your perception of public speaking as a thing of dread and fear.
You fear making a fool of yourself, of being judged harshly, of being humiliated, of failing at your speech objectives, and so on. All of these eat away at your confidence level which is a crucial component for good public speaking.
You might have unreasonable expectations of yourself. Perhaps you've watched superb speakers and expect that you should be able to communicate exactly to that style and standard.
Public speaking is not about imitating another person, but about nurturing your own particular brand of speaking skills. You can learn from the top speakers, but don't try to replicate them unless you work as a stage impressionist of sorts.
Assuming that you'll be harshly judged reveals another irrational fear; that the audience is your enemy. In most cases, the audience wants you to speak well because they too will enjoy listening to you. An exception would be when discussing an unfavorable topic or facing an overtly hostile group. But even in such circumstances there are skills you can learn for speaking under unwelcoming conditions.
Speaking of skills therein lies another reason for developing a public speaking phobia; lacking skills that teach you how to control your nerves and build up your confidence, as well as techniques that enhance your speaking abilities.
All of these can be learned through a variety of methods such as enrolling in public speaking courses, getting a speaking coach or joining a public speaking club. It requires time and effort on your part, but like all things you value, you must be willing to work towards speaking success.
Having a public speaking phobia is not like having a terminal illness where there's no hope for a remedy, although it may feel like that. It's just a temporary, illogical state of mind that can easily be fixed so that you enjoy your moment up on the stage.