Public Speaking Anxiety and Its Effects on Students

Public speaking anxiety is ranked above the fear of death. Surprisingly? Isn’t it?! Almost 77% of the people are scared of public speaking. In a survey conducted by the Journal of Education and Educational Development, out of a sample of 50 students 75% of them had public speaking anxiety.

This reminds me of a joke that some people prefer to be in a coffin rather than give a eulogy at a funeral. Back in school, that person would’ve been definitely me. As a student, I was always terrified of the stage.

Students fear public speaking not only because of the lack of exposure but also due to the fear of making a blunder in front of the audience. The fear that they will be perceived as the ‘laughing stock’ is very distressing to them.

It is observed that often after making a mistake on the stage, students start perceiving that as an extremely big blunder hurting their self-esteem. It is important to keep in mind that making mistakes should not be seen as a dead-end but rather a learning experience.

At times, the size of the audience also plays a crucial role as many people feel comfortable with a small group of audience but as the group size increases, the anxiety levels also rise. According to Gamston and Wellman (1992) large audience is perceived as more intimidating.

Apart from the students themselves, people around them can also be of help by keeping the following things in mind.

1. Talk About Anxiety

As the support system of the student/child, it is important to talk about anxiety openly. The goal shouldn’t be to get rid of anxiety but rather to deal with it. As a teacher or a parent, one should respect the student’s feeling of anxiety and avoid belittling these fears.

When the student is feeling anxious before getting up on the stage, saying things like, “Don’t be nervous” or “Why are you so anxious?” might not help the student. Instead one must empathize with the student, reassuring him that it is okay to be anxious before a presentation.

2. Encourage Exercising

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise can help reduce tension and anxiety. Physical activities produce endorphins which are helpful in decreasing overall levels of tension and stress. Moreover, they also improve one’s self-esteem.

Encouraging students to exercise on a daily basis can help them feel less stressed in moments involving anxiety.

3. Ask Them to Voice Their Opinion

In order to help students deal with anxiety, on the teacher’s part, one can ask students to voice out their opinions or ask doubts during an ongoing topic. This builds confidence in students to talk in front a small crowd.

It is only through such small events like answering in class or asking a doubt, begin to have the courage to speak in front of an audience.

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