There’s really more to public speaking fear than most people think. Several studies have been conducted on the subject—and most scientists and psychologists agree that there are several reasons behind this specific type of fear.
It comes from our tribal days when we feared disapproval of the tribe. If people disliked what you said, then you could be expelled from the tribe and would be unable to survive by yourself. That’s why public speaking often triggers the survival brain.
When the body is stressed, the brain sends a wave of adrenaline and stress hormone cortisol—leading to several physiological effects in the body. This includes, among others, the complete shutdown of creativity, increase in heart rate, and an impaired memory. Together, these make public speaking a tough job to handle.
Here are 4 of the top fears that drive public speaking anxiety:
- Am I smart enough? People worry that they aren’t worthy of speaking to a group. They fear that they lack the experience, intelligence, or charisma.
- Who am I to talk in front of these people? As the speaker, you’re supposed to command the room, but like most people, you probably look at yourself as being, well, normal. You’re busy living your life, doing what you do, so it seems unnatural to step back and recognize how much value, knowledge, and insight you really do bring to the table, or in this case, the stage.
- What if I mess up? The reality is, people aren’t expecting you to be perfect, and may even appreciate knowing that you’re human, but when you’re the one in the spotlight, it doesn’t always seem that way.
- What will they think of me? Will the audience judge me and will I then be rejected, devalued, ignored or confronted for what I’m saying?
If any of these thoughts sound familiar to you, welcome to the human condition.
First, imagine yourself doing your public presentation. Everything—from the preparation to the actual delivery. Rehearse it all in your mind and out loud several times and this will lower anxiety, because it won’t be the first time you’re doing it. It will give you the chance to lessen glitches, to feel more prepared, and to witness yourself as capable.
For more information on how to be a confident public speaker check out this course: