75% of people suffer from a fear of public speaking.
Whether this statistic is true or not, the fact remains that some people would literally rather die than speak in front of an audience. Corporate entertainment and networking are still a significant part of business development; the awkwardness felt in these kinds of social situations makes it an unpleasant experience for so many individuals.
Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. Deriving from the Greek language, Glosso meaning tongue and phobos meaning fear and dread. So, an exact translation would be tongue fear. The majority of us don’t fear speaking as such, and although there are many broader social phobias that exist under this label, a popular stressor is presentations and speeches in our work life.
So, what is it that makes this a properly named phobia? What are we scared might happen to us when we put ourselves in front of an audience:
Do we think nobody wants to hear what we have to say, because we see ourselves as worthless?
Did somebody keep telling us to be quiet when we were little?
The fear of public speaking is bound up in our own personal dread of being judged by others. Left untreated, this anxiety can have a detrimental effect on a person’s quality of life, and none more so than on our success in the workplace. In many careers it will limit our prospects because at some point you will likely be called upon to present and speak in public and avoidance tactics (however many you might have up your sleeve) start to wear thin, and I should know. I spent years tying myself up in knots, over-preparing for presentations and knowing full well that I would detest every single minute until it was over. I actually know of someone who threw themselves on the floor in the boardroom of the company they worked for, pretending they’d fainted rather than face the pain of presenting to the directors (it wasn’t me, I swear).
We can’t ignore the possibility that if we address our fears and work on our speaking skills, we will do better in our work lives and probably earn more money.
However, finally plucking up the courage to stand in front of an audience isn’t enough. How you deliver your presentation or speech matters more than whatyou are saying. Studies suggest that effective presentations are 38% your voice, 55% non-verbal cues and only 7% your content. Personally, I think these numbers to be incorrect as for a decent talk in contrast to an excellent one, the content needs to be relevant and memorable (for the right reasons). Therefore, we should all be spending a decent amount of time preparing the style of our delivery once we have the content, paying attention to the tone and body-language and how we will go about building rapport with our audience.
So how can we feel more confident when we are delivering a presentation or speech? Breathing is important, people tend to forget to breathe when they are in a heightened state of anxiety. If you breathe normally and deeply then we can trick our brain into thinking we are ok. A lot of people tense up through nerves and with their heads swimming can feel unbalanced. An effective way to feel grounded is to soften the knees and imagine a kangaroo tail coming from your tail bone touching the ground and that this is supporting us. It really does help us to feel steady – a nice tip from the book Physical Intelligence.
We are all capable of overcoming our fears if we are determined enough to find a way. I chose The Association of Speakers Clubs. Garstang Ladies Speakers Club has helped me to become both an accomplished speaker and listener. It is fair to say I have come a long way in a short space of time and my biggest audience to date is 320, and I had an excellent sleep the night before the presentation! Now I am privileged to help others to find the orator within themselves. It’s never too late to learn, build confidence and broaden your personal and professional horizons. As the saying goes; when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.