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Tactics to Deal with Glossophobia (Fear of Public Speaking)

Glossophobia - Fear of Public Speaking

Halloween may be one of my favorite holidays. Elaborate costumes and makeup are my forte, and scary movies are a must. In the spirit of Halloween, I would like to share a spooky short story. I call this story “Glossophobia”.

In a dark room, a faint blue light illuminates the face of a woman in her thirties. Her face is stark and pallid, and her hands tremble as she reads aloud the words on the computer screen.  She stands up, abandoning her laptop as she strains to calm her heart and paces around the room, talking to herself. She wrings out her hands, takes a deep breath, and returns to her computer. Looking at the screen, she reads the words again.

“Good Morning Everyone! Welcome to San Diego. Are you ready to talk about training today?”

 She shakes her head and tries to calm her thoughts as she pictures herself in front of a room facing her biggest fear. Public Speaking!

What is Glossophobia?

Glossophobia or fear of public speaking is estimated to affect about 3 out of 4 people. I struggle with glossophobia every time I speak in front of a group, which is a bit of an issue for a person who spends a good deal of her professional life public speaking. I speak in front of an audience at least once a week, yet I still get nervous reading my children a bedtime story.

Fortunately, I have learned to control this fear over the years enough that I now enjoy public speaking and do so competitively in my free time. I’ll be honest, it took a lot of work to make peace with this fear, and I still work at it every day. There is a decent chance that you too suffer from some level of glossophobia. Here are a few things I have found useful as I work to control this fear.

What Can I Do about Glossophobia?

Immersion Therapy/Practice

Those of you at DevLearn this week are enjoying a great opportunity to learn from others working in our industry. Statistically, more than a few of your session speakers suffer from the fear of doing exactly what they are doing. Why then, are they doing it? To answer that question, I would like to quote @JD_Dillon who recently said on twitter:

Practice doesn't make perfect. Repeated, spaced practice w/ meaningful feedback and support resources make incrementally better!

Speaking at conferences is a fantastic way practice and become more confident. While this practice may not eliminate your fear, it will incrementally help as you learn to control it. As luck would have it, the eLearning Guild’s Realities360 is accepting speaking proposals as of this week. I recommend you submit a proposal, you won’t regret it.

Join Toastmasters

Fighting glossophobia through practiceIf you are unfamiliar, Toastmasters is a speaking and leadership organization. The program pushes you to speak in front of a club on a regular basis. Watching other people speak is a great way to learn the trade. Getting up and speaking on a regular basis gives you practice and provides you with ample opportunity to hear from others on ways you can improve. Which brings me to my next point.

Ask for Feedback

Feedback is critical for glossophobic speakers. Nervous speakers usually have a tell, and feedback is the one way you can determine if you are controlling your fear. My tell is speed talking; I can give a ten-minute presentation in six-minutes, and I sound like a caffeinated chihuahua. Participants cannot learn from a trainer who speaks like the Micro Machine Man. Implementing good feedback has helped me to slow down and channel my nervous energy.

Fight Glossophobia by Acknowledging It

Don’t let the fear of public speaking stop you from being a great trainer. A lot of us have the same fear. With some practice and some feedback, you can hone your public speaking skills.

Are you a nervous speaker? Think you have glossophobia? What is your tell? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

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