I just added a new word to my glossary today…Glossophobia.

Image credit: Pixabay

Peradventure you didn’t know, Glossophobia, according to Wikipedia is the fear of public speaking or speaking in general. And that aptly defines me. Or even you.

Here’s hoping none of the folks at my work place stumble on this but whenever it gets close to my turn to present my departmental report at the monthly management meetings, my lips suddenly become dry, my heart triples her thudding / palpitations, my tummy clenches her fists and my bowel almost always needs to see the inside of the loo.

You’d think that having done this for over 6 years, it’d be better and easier but, err, doesn’t.

I always manage to get float through it every time but..err..whenever I need to face any kind of audience outside the workplace, the butterflies in my tummy still gets in formation to perform their rumba traditional dance. My legs still wobble uncontrollably and my voice still shake in sympathy with my head.

And all these while, I never even knew that this condition of mine had such a fancy name. Glossophobia!

How glossophobic are you?

It has been claimed that about 75% of people / speakers still get a fair dose of anxiety / nervousness before / during their big speeches. Now, that’s some consolation there.  (at least, I am not alone)

In actual fact, surveys have shown that most people fear public speaking more than they fear death (Wikipedia). Now, that’s a new one for me.

If untreated, public speaking anxiety (as other mental health problems) can cause serious detrimental effects on people in general, as it may prevent them from accomplishing their life goals…very true..glossophobia can be greatly inhibitive.

On a scale of 1 – 10, my glossophobic level should be a 9.999 (1 being the lowest…), I bet for seasoned speakers aka experts, it is between 0.99 – 1.99. That’s why they are ‘seasoned‘ in the first place.

However, the beautiful truth is that anybody could migrate from 9.999 to 0.999 on the glossophobic scale.

I am consciously working on mine (definitely not waiting to be shocked into action anymore).

I recently shared on my Instagram page how I had to address a kind of audience I had never addressed before.

It was during a mid-week service and I had been given a few days notice to lead the church. This is usually in the form of sermon and prayers lasting an hour long.

Okay, it was not really a few days notice, more like a few months..*staring at feet*..

To be honest, my Pastor brought it up a couple of months back and I tried to put up a weak defense about how I had never done anything like that before, etc, etc..then he said okay, how about we try in 2 months time?

I agreed, hoping he would come to realize there are a couple of willing and professional speakers out there..and maybe he’d forget completely. How wrong I was.

I still got called upon a week before I was meant to do ‘it’ and my heart started dancing.

Through the rumba dance, wobbly legs and quivering voice, I ehmd, ahned and errd through it and did just fine, even better than I thought.

What’s with speakers pausing during their speeches or interjecting everything with ehm…ah…and err…? I recorded my session and counted a couple of ehms and errs in there.

For me, it does not matter whether the audience is 4 or 400 and neither does it matter whether it is the 1st or 100th time delivering a speech, these things happen and they will continue to happen.

Especially if you are excrutiatingly introverted, like yours truly.

Fact is: I dreaded speaking!

Silly, I know.

Considering that I am in a role where I have to come up with words / presentations off the cue and also have to lead others.

Manifestations of Glossophobia

In case you need to know, below are the symptoms of Glossophobia:

  • Severe anxiety even at the thought of having to verbally communicate before any audience
  • Avoidance of events which focus too much on individuals in attendance…think management reviews
  • Distress -physical or otherwise, nausea, sudden bowel movement aka dysentry or feelings of panic in such circumstances.

The following can help deal with this fear: 

-Attending training courses / programs in public speaking (can help dispel with the fears, or some of the fears),

-Getting hold of self-help materials (to pore over and digest),

-Watching / listening to recordings / clips of well known introverted speakers (can help if you are an introvert plagued with this).

Public Speaking Tips for Non-Speakers / Introverts (from an Introvert who’s been there)

The thing is this, introverts more often than not suffer from Glossophobia.

Remember we do not like speaking or interacting much in the first place. Having us speak before more than 1 person is bound to make the earth cave in. Or not.

Now it does not matter whether it is an audience comprising of 4 people with whom we just drank tea or 400 people from Mars, the fear is the same.

Here is what I did in preparing for the above referenced presentation:

-I chose a topic I am comfortable speaking on…I love the story of Ruth and Naomi..

-I rehearsed a couple of times during the week, 1 hour at a time..

-I got into the venue before the program began..

-I got into the space I was to speak from, held the mic, walked around the podium and gazed across the empty pews..

Here are 10 tips to overcome Glossophobia whenever you have an impending Presentation:

  • Pick a topic you are comfortable discussing without running out of ideas / words,
  • If you are not at liberty to pick your topic, research deeply the topic chosen for you,
  • Know the topic very well, so well that you can speak without glancing at a note for 5-10 minutes at a stretch,
  • Listen to previous speakers on the subject or read up on previous presentations on the topic,
  • Rehearse your speech alone at least three times before your big day,
  • Rehearse in front of a mirror or a friend / partner, etc,
  • Know your time limit and prepare not overshoot the allotted time,
  • Ensure you get to the venue ahead of your presentation,
  • Get behind the desk / podium, if you are using one and have a feel of the ambiance of the hall,
  • Have a feel of the ‘tools’ (microphone, laptop, projector, etc) you are going to use in delivering your presentation.

10 things you can do during your presentation:

  • Take several deep breaths before launching into your speech,
  • Make it a point of duty to smile during your opening and through your speech,
  • Be steady / calm…what’s the worst that could happen anyway?
  • Tell a real life / fictional story that relates to your topic..people love them…and use anecdotes,
  • Focus less on your fears and your wobbly legs and more on the people facing you,
  • If using a desk / lectern, rest your free hand on it for brief moments, you can also lean slightly for brief moments
  • Make use of hand gestures to drive home your point…do not stand in a spot throughout..MOVE round
  • Focus on one or two friendly faces in the crowd and often direct your words at them
  • It is okay to pause, take deep breaths, involve the audience, ask questions and use those moments to gain some composure (and regain your line of thought)…
  • Glance only occasionally at your not read or reel out your points, rather engage the audience

In all, do not take yourself too seriously…smile, flow along and simply have fun.

I have used some of the above tips previously and I used all during my last stint behind the microphone.

You know, after my session, I could not wait to escape to gulp some much needed fresh air (and also to berate myself slightly) only to hear somebody calling out to me.

Turned out I touched more than 1 person.

And that is a miracle. One I need repeated…through me and you.

Have you suffered / Are you suffering from Glossophobia?

How are you dealing with it?




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2 Replies to “Err…Glossophobia, Anyone?”

  1. Great article! Thank you for providing so much information to help with this VERY real anxiety. Through opportunity, I was able to overcome any anxiety I had on public speaking simply through repitition. Now, ‘singing’? That’s a whole other problem! I would love to come across a comprhensive and helpful list like this one on THAT subject. Thanks again! #smallvictoriessundaylinkup

  2. What a great, in depth article. I am terrified of public speaking, in fact speaking in general. I am much happier speaking to people via Twitter or Facebook. 🙂
    Thanks for linking to #pocolo

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