Knowing Your Fears and Conquering Them.

By Erika Yu

Why is it important to understand my fears? Isn’t it just the fear of public speaking? Yes and no. While the fear of public speaking is a phrase that is commonly used, it is also general and may not apply to everyone. Therefore, some tips may not be specific to your challenge. I will be discussing a couple of different reasons why people are afraid of public speaking and how to overcome them. 

Part 1: Physiology 
You might feel fear or anxiety once you know you will need to publicly speak because your body perceives it as a “threat.” This interferes with your ability to present in front of an audience. 

Researchers suggest that people who generally feel anxious are more prone to feeling anxious about public speaking and learn to avoid it. For some people, anxiety applies only to public speaking situations. Some people experience anxiety sensitivity: the fear of fear. People may be worried about how their anxiety will affect their ability to perform in challenging situations. They may worry that they will come across as nervous to their audience. As a result, they may come off as a shaky speaker.

How should you conquer these problems?

1) Choose a topic that interests you. Understandably, this may not always be possible on a school assignment, but try to find an approach to the topic that intrigues you. For example, you could discuss a personal experience you had as an introduction. This sets the stage for the rest of your presentation. Start strong, finish strong! 

2) Practice. Even the most natural public speakers rehearse their speech many times (in fact, they might be practicing the most). How you practice can depend on what you personally struggle with. Are you afraid of mispronouncing words? Practice speaking slowly and repeat words you make mistakes on. Are you afraid of speaking in front of an audience? Start with speaking in front of the mirror and observe your facial features. Once you are comfortable, present in front of your family members or friends. 

3) Develop a routine. Create a routine for practicing and how to deal with stress before the presentation. Planning ahead of time prevents you from pushing everything back to the last day and avoids the panic it can cause. In addition, repeating the same routine can help put you in the proper frame of mind. 

Sources:

Cuncic, Arlin. “Top Tips for Managing Public Speaking Anxiety.” Verywell Mind, 2020, www.verywellmind.com/tips-for-managing-public-speaking-anxiety-3024336.

Tsaousides, Theo. “Why Are We Scared of Public Speaking?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Nov. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201711/why-are-we-scared-public-speaking.