The fear of public speaking, known as glossophobia, still tops the list of dread-inducing activities for most Americans. The threat of standing before an audience and speaking can prompt nausea, sweats and long, sleepless nights. Unlike other fears, glossophobia can stand between you and your career dreams. Women have plenty of obstacles to overcome in the business world, from glass ceilings to wage gaps, so why let the fear of public speaking be one of them? Here are some ways to say goodbye to glossophobia with practice and planning.
Every speech is a persuasive endeavor. In some cases the goal is obvious. Sales and marketing presentations have a final product that looks like a contract for services or products. Other forms of speech may only have the persuasive objective of getting the audience to listen, or convincing the audience that you are the expert on the subject on which you’re speaking. The art of persuasion is ancient. In 350 BC, Aristotle wrote the foundational essay Rhetoric, outlining ethos, pathos, and logos as the three components that every persuasive piece of communication must have. According to Aristotle, ethos is the credibility that you bring to the table, pathos is the emotional content of your speech, and logos is logic of your dialogue. Use the template from Busy Teacher and incorporate ethos, pathos, and logos phrases to make your speech convincing and inspirational.
For people with public speaking anxiety, an appropriately placed pause can give a moment to gather thoughts while adding a bit of drama to the speech. Research into public speaking anxiety shows that the inappropriate use of a pause can decrease the perceived credibility of the speaker but placing a pause at the proper time can add to the fluidity of the speech. It is a careful balance. While rehearsing the speech, focus on placing well thought-out pauses throughout the talk. This will make it sound better and alleviate some of the stress.
Know your audience. There will always be a friendly face or two in the audience that will give you nonverbal feedback in the form of a smile, head nod, or laugh. Use these people as touchstones to read your speed and understandability. Positive feedback during the speech will make the remainder be anxiety-free. Reading the audience is one advantage women may have over men. According to a fleet of MIT studies, women are better at reading their colleagues. If you are concerned, ask someone to sit in the audience with whom you can make eye contact, and can give you cues on time, pace, and relatability.
No, you do not need to see into the future to be a great public speaker but you do need to see yourself in the future as a great public speaker. Self-efficacy, or one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed, is a key component of good public speaking skills. The primary reason for practicing your speech is to mentally transport yourself into a future in which you are successfully giving it. Some guided imagery or self-hypnosis techniques can help create strong self-efficacy beliefs.
Fake it until you make it. You may be filled with doubt, fear, and butterflies but the audience does not need to know this. Confidence is one of the components of public speaking that differentiates the bad from the great. Exude confidence. This is one area in which many women struggle. Speak loudly and make definitive statements. Make jokes. Talk with your engaged audience. Move around. Use big hand gestures. These are all characteristics of a person that is commanding the stage. Ignore the fear in your head and go big.