Anxiety and the fear of public speaking are common and experienced by many people. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007 Survey of Mental Health, some 2.3 million Australians live with anxiety, which makes it twice as common as depression.
As the comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death … Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy“.
There is even a psychological term for the fear of public speaking – “glossophobia” – which comes from the Greek word glōssa, meaning tongue, and phobos, meaning fear or dread.
Fear of public speaking expresses itself in different ways and is different and unique for each person, but can commonly include:
– Worrying about the speaking task well in advance of the task
– Having thoughts of being overcome by fear before, during and after the speaking task
– Thinking that everyone will notice how nervous you are and being severely embarrassed
– Physical symptoms such as a racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, shaking voice, sweating, trembling.
Common events or tasks which can trigger public speaking nerves include:
– A speech or presentation – for example, at work, a social event such as a wedding, or at school/TAFE/university;
– Reading aloud in a group or one-on-one setting;
– Participating in discussions; and
– Other similar situations where your nerves are triggered through being the centre of attention or in the ‘spotlight’.