Did you know that the fear of public speaking and public speaking anxiety is called glossophobia?
Glossophobia derives from the Greek from ‘tongue’ and ‘fear’ and is defined as speech anxiety or fear of public speaking, the uncomfortable feeling you get before giving a big speech or presentation. Notably, even Prince Harry has admitted that he gets incredibly nervous and anxious before giving a talk! These archetypal fears are part of what makes us human, and they are linked to our survival, triggering our automatic “fight or flight” response to what we believe is a threatening situation.
What Is the Fear of Public Speaking?
The fear of public speaking affects about three quarters of the population, is often quoted as being scarier than death in opinion polls and it can manifest in different ways both physically and mentally: from a “brain freeze” sensation, negative feelings of being judged by others, to physical symptoms like tightening of the stomach, frequent trips to the toilet and more. All these symptoms can be linked to the release of stress hormones, which slow down the activity of the brain’s frontal lobe, whose function is essential in retrieving information.
Some of the ways in which we react when we are told we need to give a speech are to think of all the possible ways in which things could go wrong. The more we think about negative situations, the more anxious we feel about speaking in public.
Many people join groups like Toastmasters where they can practise their public speaking skills in a supportive environment. One of the things you learn in public speaking groups, for example, is the importance of taking some pauses to improve the flow of a speech.
Before giving an important presentation we recommend to practise Sophrology to get into a positive frame of mind and address an audience feeling cool, calm and collected.
How Sophrology Helps Beat Public Speaking Anxiety
Like many types of anxiety, public speaking anxiety can be managed with the right techniques.
Preparation is key, and one of the best ways to prepare a speech is to practise entering a state of relaxation. The more relaxed you are, the better your delivery will be. If you make practising relaxation a part of your daily routine, your mind will not have the time to be distracted by worry or worst-case scenarios.
Another cornerstone to the success of a presentation is to visualise yourself giving a well-received talk. Visualising a positive outcome can train the brain to prepare for success.
You can learn some simple Sophrology exercises to use before giving a speech that will help you face the challenge with ease and a sense of calm. You can listen to guided sessions online (you can access them through the BeSophro website) and just allow your mind and body to rest before public speaking.
A useful technique is the tense and release, where you are engaging both mind and body to enter a state of relaxation quickly and efficiently. As you breathe in from your belly expanding it, raise your arms with clenched fists in front of you. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then, as you breathe out, deflate your abdomen and gently release and lower your arms, resting them on your thighs (if you are sitting, or by your sides, if you are standing).
Remember that your breathing is important. Shallow breathing, usually located in the chest, will make you feel more anxious and affect your delivery, for example making you speak faster, therefore limiting the impact of your presentation and the ability of the audience to follow the structure or understand the meaning of your talk.
It is worth noting about Sophrology (we could call it a welcome side-effect) is that it gives you a sense of joy and positivity: you start enjoying life more and even face its challenges with an open mind instead of dreading them. You start to acknowledge that we can choose how we feel about and deal with situations.