Glossophobia is a really big word for a very common problem-fear of public speaking. According to one source, it is the most common phobia.1 Anxiety reactions can be as minor as discomfort or can manifest as a full-blown panic attack. Many people avoid public speaking altogether as a protection mechanism. For a trainer, it is difficult to
avoid speaking publically unless you work exclusively online.
We have all been in the presence of a nervous speaker, even
if we didn’t know exactly what the problem was. The speaker
who never looks up from notes, doesn’t take a breath, avoids
eye contact with the audience, and rushes through the information is probably nervous or fearful. Shaking hands and excessive
throat-clearing are other signs.
TIPS FOR PUBLIC SPEAKING
There are many ways to make speaking in public more comfortable. Some are very simple (breathe) and some involve drugs or
psychotherapy. In the real world, these are not usually the best
options, so let’s discuss some practical suggestions to make the
experience better for both the speaker and the audience.
Here are some tips to make public speaking easier and less
stressful, while improving your presentation skills:
First, know your topic inside and out. 2 The more comfortable
you are with the subject matter, the easier speaking about it
becomes. If it is something you are passionate about, even if
you are nervous about speaking, you are less likely to lose your
place and get off topic.
Create a great presentation. A presentation you are proud of
provides a level of comfort that exudes confidence on the stage
or behind the microphone.
As you design your talk, anticipate what questions might
arise, and be sure you can answer them. Sometimes, the
audience plays “Stump the Speaker” or may contest a point.
Knowing your subject matter will keep you composed when
Make outlines, notes, or whatever you need to keep your presentation flowing, but do not write out a word-for-word script.
Even if you memorize it, you will sound stiff when you deliver
it. 3 Instead, as you develop the presentation, let it organically
Plan to arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time to find parking, walk to the location and allow for traffic, accidents, and
detours. Murphy’s Law says it will happen.
Remember that how you present has a big impact on how
your message is received, and how much is retained. If you
are memorable because you fidgeted, fumbled with notes, or
could not get the microphone to work properly, your takeaway
Overcoming the fear of
message is diminished. Test your equipment, set up the lighting,
arrange the room to bring your audience closer, and be sure
that your PowerPoint, if you use one, looks good on the screen.
Do this before your audience arrives. Preparation removes the
fear of the unknown, the “what if something doesn’t work?”
that feeds pre-presentation jitters. A few deep breaths before the
event begins will help to calm your nerves.
Feel good about yourself. Presentation clothing should be professional, fit well, be comfortable, and not be composed of problem
fabrics. Too sheer, too clingy, too loose, or too tight clothes are distracting to the audience. Your clothing choice should enhance your
self-confidence, not give you something more to worry about.
Don’t expect perfection. A misspoken word, a fact “out of
place,” or a missing line is not the end of the world. Your audience can’t see your notes, so unless your error is glaring, they
will not know that you have made what you consider a mistake.
Speak slowly and clearly; don’t mumble.
Use humor in your presentation. Humor can break the ice
with an unfamiliar group, change the dynamics in a room and
lighten your mood during a stressful situation. PowerPoint can
be used to interject humor in the form of graphics, cartoons,
or juxtaposed situations to keep the audience interested. Don’t
overdo it, and don’t cross the lines of good taste.
Distractions diminish your message. They also provide cues
to subliminal messages, and may signal nervousness, distain
for either the subject matter or the audience, and also portray
Smile. Stand up straight. Make eye contact with your audience.
Move around the stage or the room, but don’t invade anyone’s
personal space. Use hand gestures, but don’t fidget. Don’t play with
hair, nails or jewelry. Use natural, open gestures for emphasis. 4
And finally, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
According to one source, fear of public speaking ranks higher
than death, but it doesn’t have to limit your career choice,
upward mobility, or professional profile. With planning, practice
and the infusion of self-confidence earned with each successful
experience, glossophobia can be a thing of the past.
To view the references for this article, go to www.alnmag.
Ann Marie Dinkel, RLATG, has over 30 years of facility and staff
management experience and serves as Adjunct Faculty at the
Delaware Technical Community College and the Drexel MLAS program. She is a consultant and trainer in Laboratory Animal Science.