CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – SEPTEMBER 28, 2021
Why Are We Scared of Public Speaking? (PT.2)
Some researchers suggest that there are people who generally experience higher anxiety across different situations, and are therefore more prone to feel anxious about speaking in public as well. People who are predisposed to feeling anxious find it more challenging to master their anxiety and conquer their fear of public speaking and will opt to avoid it. For other people, the anxiety is limited to public speaking situations, but the physiological signs of fear they experience as they anticipate, prepare, and perform in public are similar. Moreover, some people experience what researchers call anxiety sensitivity, or the fear of fear.
Anxiety sensitivity means that in addition to being worried about public speaking, people are worried about their anxiety about public speaking and how their anxiety will affect their ability to perform in challenging communication situations. So, along with worrying about whether they will accomplish their objectives with their speech, people with high anxiety sensitivity also worry that they will be overwhelmingly anxious in front of their audience, and they will come across as a shaky speaker.
Another factor involves people’s beliefs about public speaking and about themselves as speakers. The fear often arises when people overestimate the stakes of communicating their ideas in front of others, viewing the speaking event as a potential threat to their credibility, image, and chance to reach an audience. Negative views of oneself as a speaker (I am not good at speaking in front of crowds, I am not a good public speaker, I am boring, etc.) can also raise anxiety and augment the fear of speaking in public. Some theories make the distinction between a performance orientation and a communication orientation. Performance orientation means you view public speaking as something that requires special skills, and you see the role of the audience as judges who are evaluating how good of a presenter you are. In contrast, communication orientation means that the main focus is on expressing your ideas, presenting information, or telling your story. For people with this orientation, the objective is to get through to their audience the same way they get through to people during everyday conversations. Think about this in reverse: If you view any conversation that you have in the presence of another person as a form of “public” speaking, you have enough evidence that you can express yourself clearly and communicate effectively. You would then take the same approach to public speaking events where the focus is simply on sharing ideas and information. However, when the focus shifts from being heard and understood to being evaluated, the anxiety tends to be higher.