CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – JULY 17, 2021(1)
Public speaking anxiety, also known as glossophobia, is one of the most commonly reported social fears. While some people may feel nervous about giving a speech or presentation, if you have social anxiety disorder (SAD), public speaking anxiety may take over your life.
Public Speaking Anxiety
Symptoms of public speaking anxiety are the same as those that occur for social anxiety disorder, but they only happen in the context of speaking in public. If you live with public speaking anxiety, you may worry weeks or months in advance of a speech or presentation, and you probably have severe physical symptoms of anxiety during a speech such as the following:
- A pounding heart
- Quivering voice
- Shortness of breath
- Upset stomach
These symptoms are a result of the fight or flight response—a rush of adrenaline that prepares you for danger. When there is no real physical threat, it can feel as though you have lost control of your body. This makes it very hard to do well during public speaking and may cause you to avoid situations in which you may have to speak in public.
Understanding the Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder
Public speaking anxiety may be diagnosed as SAD if it significantly interferes with your life. Below are some examples of how public speaking anxiety can cause problems:
- Changing courses at college to avoid a required oral presentation
- Changing jobs or careers
- Turning down promotions because of public speaking obligations
- Failing to give a speech when it would be appropriate (e.g., best man at a wedding)
If you have intense anxiety symptoms while speaking in public and your ability to live your life the way that you would like is affected by it, you may have SAD.2
Fortunately, public speaking anxiety is relatively easily managed using medication and/or therapy.
Short-term therapy such as systematic desensitization and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful to learn how to manage anxiety symptoms and anxious thoughts that trigger them. Ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist who can offer this type of therapy; in particular, it will be helpful if the therapist has experience in treating social anxiety and/or public speaking anxiety.
If you live with public speaking anxiety that is causing you significant distress, ask your doctor about medication that can help. Short-term medications known as beta-blockers (e.g., propranolol) can be taken prior to a speech or presentation to block the symptoms of anxiety. When used in conjunction with therapy, you may find the medication helps to reduce your phobia of public speaking.
In addition to traditional treatment, there are a number of strategies that you can use to cope with speech anxiety and become better at public speaking in general. Public speaking is like any activity—better preparation equals better performance. When you are better prepared, it will boost your confidence and make it easier to concentrate on delivering your message.
Whether you are giving a speech at a wedding, a shareholders’ convention, or in a college classroom, there are strategies that you can use when it comes to managing anxiety.