Do you have dry mouth, sweaty hands and shortness of breath every time you face a crowd? Does the mere thought of speaking in front of a group of people make you nauseous? Does it make your heart pound so hard you are unable to utter a proper sentence? If your answer is yes, there are high chances you are suffering from Glossophobia. And let me tell you, you are not alone. Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is an all-too-common episode that 3/4th of the world goes through. Yes, you read it right! Almost 75% of the total population of the world is a victim of this social anxiety disorder to a certain degree. It is believed to start at the age of 13 when puberty starts triggering various psychological changes in a person. “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking.
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Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld.
Every single person likes being heard. It makes you feel important and gives you an amazing sense of self fulfillment. I am sure most of you have always come across great orators delivering a speech and wondered, “I wish I could speak like that!” Then you start imagining yourself on a podium giving an amazing speech, followed by thunderous applause from the audience and drown yourself in an ocean of wishful thinking. But how many of you have actually spoken in public? Sadly, when it comes to actually doing it, most people choose their favorite path, i.e. “The path of ESCAPE!” This path contrary to its name never actually lets you escape. It fills you with lifelong regret and failure every time you turn down an opportunity for public speaking. You either think that you are not good enough or you are too scared to do so even if you think you are. And how could we forget? Something always gets in the way. “My language isn’t good enough!”, “I stutter slightly when I speak”, “There are too many people in the audience!” or “My grammar is weak!” We run out of breath saying these but we do not run out of excuses.
Public speaking is an art and takes time to master. Just because you have legs, doesn’t mean you can play football like Ronaldo, nor can you play guitar like Slash just because you have fingers. Therefore simply having a voice doesn’t mean you will be good at public speaking. You need to practice enough to be good at something. The word “Practice” seems cliché but is the most powerful of all and always reminds of Demosthenes, the greatest ancient Greek orator. It is the story of when Demosthenes first spoke infront of the Greek assembly. He wanted to become an orator. He was pretty nervous, so he stammered and hesitated. The audience booed and then threw things at him. Ashamed at his own incompetence, Domosthenes walks out of the stage where he meets an actor.
The actor says, “You need more expression in your voice, more energy. Also, you need to believe in yourself because the message is good.” He then goes to his house, builds an underground cellar, shaves half of his head so he cannot go out. He builds a mirror and speaks in front of it for 3 months continuously. He finally comes out and speaks in front of the sea, against the waves to the point where he could hear his voice boom across the sea. He goes back to the assembly and becomes the greatest orators of all times. Malcolm Gladwell in one of his bestselling books ‘The Outliners’ says that it takes a person 10,000 hours of sincere practice to become world class at something. So what if your first couple of speeches wasn’t so good? There is still a long way to go.
The main reason why people fail to speak well in front of a mass is because they are not organized. Imagine you are a non-boxer and someone just wakes you up from bed and throws you into a ring. It would freak you out, wouldn’t it? But if someone tells you that you need to fight in a boxing match after a set period of time, you will spend time gathering information, learning skills, knowing the opponent, etc. Being able to speak spontaneously is great, but everyone doesn’t have this skill. Also, being spontaneous doesn’t guarantee an effective speech.
An organized speech is easy to remember and easy for the audience to understand. If not word to word at least the central idea, main points and supporting material of your speech needs to be organized in your head. Giving irrelevant information just for the sake of speaking and using content that the audience doesn’t understand only hampers your credibility as a speaker. Setting boundaries for your speech through proper organization of your ideas will help you feel prepared and more confident. “But what if they don’t like it? What if they laugh at me and think that I am stupid?” are thoughts that run in your mind too often. The fear of rejection! This is a psychological barrier and it is much more difficult to overcome than to just practice and organize your speech. Many people suffer from this thought process. So how do you get rid of this insecurity? In her bestseller book ‘The Secret’, Rhonda Byrne talks about channeling your thoughts to what you want to happen instead of things that you dread. What you fear becomes real. So you need to quit fearing. No matter how bad your speech goes, you will still survive; better, you will learn where you went wrong and never repeat it again.
Self consciousness to an extreme level is another contributor to glossophobia. You can see the audience while you speak but how do you look/sound to the audience from where they are seated? Many people are over conscious of themselves which make them very uncomfortable about how they would look/sound like while they speak in front of a group of people. The solution to this problem is quite obvious i.e. to get used to how you look/sound. You could practice speaking in front of a mirror. This can really boost up your confidence. You can also record your speech and listen to it.
Both of these activities make you more comfortable with yourself giving you room for self-evaluation and improvement. If you are unsure about the content of your speech, you could give it to a few people to read or discuss what you are going to talk about with them. Participating in public speaking platforms and joining classes for the same could also help a lot. In the present age of cut throat competition, a person with good communication skills always has an upper hand over others who don’t. A good public speaking skill is an essential trait for a leader. Be it in your personal or professional life, a good speaker who can make an impact is always respected. If you suffer from glossophobia, you need to act now. The path of excuse is easy but it degrades you and never lets you be completely free. After all, what is the point of having the right to assembly and free speech if you do not have the skill? Start today! Do not let your insecurities create hurdles in your path of self-development. Always remember that self doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever will.
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