I know intimately the gut-wrenching, free-falling feeling of glossophobia (fear of public speaking) and I know many more who have dealt or currently deal with it now. Two words: it sucks!
One of the most important things you can do when it comes to problem solving, is to IDENTIFY the problem.
Many of the reasons we humans fear public speaking are universal and well-known; many others haven’t even been defined. I decided to compile a list of the most common fears people have of public speaking in order to help bring them out into the open.
Some are in a league of their own but you’ll also notice that several of the fears listed below are mixtures of one or more of the others.
See if you can relate to any of them. Let's get started:
1. Being judged
People form opinions of just about everyone they come into contact with. You do it, I do it. Accept the fact that you’re going to be judged. Make your case and hopefully they’ll judge you accurately based on your message.
2. Coming off as a dummy (lacking intelligence)
This one is pretty straightforward. There may be plenty of others who think they know everything much better than you do, and perhaps they’ll think you’re not worthy enough to speak to them. Well, hey, the world is full of them. The word “hater” didn’t appear by chance.
3. Being “found out” - Imposter syndrome
People have strange thoughts about someone “finding them out”, or finding out they’re a fraud! The thought behind it is the speaker feels as if they aren’t an “expert” in their field, but rather an imposter. Purely related to self-confidence and it’s much more common than you might think.
4. Making a foolish mistake
Not wanting to make a silly mistake on stage while a group of people have their eyes on you. A mistake could be mispronouncing a word, forgetting to say a word you had prepared to say, or just about anything you consider a mistake.
5. Abuse by your internal critic
Another way this could be said is being afraid of YOURSELF. Does it really seem strange, though? Think about it. Who knows our insecurities better than us? Nobody. Our internal critic knows exactly what to say in order to make us feel like crap. It’s understandable that you’d want to avoid this abuse.
6. Being criticized right then and there by someone in the audience
It’s one thing to be criticized on the interwebz by an anonymous troll. It’s another to be chastised in the flesh by a hostile troll. Being put on the spot by another person while there’s an entire audience looking on would be a hell of a lot of pressure. Even if you have the knowledge to back-up your points, the pressure can fluster even the most intelligent person. Again, another understandable fear.
7. Heckled by social media
Let me be the first to say, I do not wish to become an infamous meme or a funny video. Okay, I guess it would be kinda cool. Like this one:
8. Speaking in front of professional peers
Talk about pressure! Basically, you’re speaking to people who all do the exact same thing that you do. They could be audience members or even when speaking on a panel with other industry peers. Whatever the case, who’d be more qualified to judge you than them? And that’s the reason for this fear. It’s a combination of being judged and being “found out.” I hear this one A LOT.
9. Forgetting what to say
This ranks high on the scale of terror. I’ve experienced it and I’ll be the first to tell you: not fun! When you analyze this fear, you’ll see that it’s a mix of making a mistake, looking stupid, and being judged (possibly others). The worse part about this one is that the physical effects of fear actually contribute to forgetfulness. Crappy…
10. Freezing (deer in a headlight)
Imagine completely seizing up and not being able to think or speak. You sweatin’ yet? Forgetting what to say shares its roots with this one because of the physical effects that fear has on us (fight or flight). Equally terrifying.
11. The fear of being recorded
This is basically fear squared. The fear of being recorded is the same as the fear of public speaking. The reasons are essentially the same. The main difference would be that being recorded means your “mistakes” could quite possibly go viral like the dolphin man video from #7.
12. Your points being disputed
Makes sense. Nobody wants to be called out as “Fake News.” In most cases, it acts as a personal attack (at least that’s what our ego thinks) if someone calls out your arguments or conclusions. It also requires you to do more work, either to defend your points or have to entirely re-think and re-work them. Not necessarily a bad thing, but who wants more work? Sheesh.
13. Not being able to please everyone
I don’t think we’re hardwired to want people to not like us. It works from a marketing standpoint I suppose. The saying “love ‘em or hate ‘em” is a good example. Take any person who has escaped the lobster tank of mediocrity and you’ll find a hardcore group of people that admire them, and another group, perhaps even more rowdy, that despises them. How can you defend against this? Stay home. Only problem with that is you’ll never be able to overcome the fear of public speaking.
14. Thinking no one will believe you or think you’re credible
A combination of imposter syndrome and speaking in front of professional peers, oh, and topped with a cherry of self-doubt. It’s easy to imagine exaggerated scenarios like this. Perhaps they’ll think you’re too young and that will make them write you off before you even begin. Too old to speak to a bunch of whippersnappers? Lack of experience? And many, many more.
15. Fear of dying
Hey, may sound over the top, but I’m sure you’ve heard the stat about people fearing public speaking over death (preposterous stat but illustrates that public speaking is a rampant fear). The fear of getting so nervous that your heart gives out and you die. Right there on the floor. I suppose it’s possible.
16. Being physically attacked by someone in the audience
Similar to the last one although not quite as unlikely if you consider the current political climate. It would go something like this, you say something jokingly that offends someone, next thing you know you’re waking up in the hospital from an errant shoe.
17. Saying something politically incorrect
Going back to the last one, I suppose the thought of being retaliated against physically makes sense. But for this, I think the mere thought of ridicule or outrage caused by an “offensive” slip of the tongue is plenty reason to get overtaken by fear. Imagine something you say gets misinterpreted (or correctly interpreted) as “racist." Reputations have been toppled for less, so this is certainly an understandable fear. Mind your tongue, pal!
18. Not knowing the answer to a question
You’ve prepared thoroughly and have even delivered your speech pretty dang well, but now comes the Q&A portion. You take the first question and you don’t know the answer. Uh-oh. The audience members are scratching their heads and now they begin to question the entire content of your speech.
Maybe you can only relate to one or two from the list. I also understand that one dude’s fear might be another’s walk in the park. Because of that, the fears of others should never be belittled simply because they don’t affect you. Respect thine adversary.
After all, whether you have one or all of these fears, the end result is the same. A roadblock between you and a life-changing skill.
The list may seem daunting. In actuality, though, it really only boils down to a couple of things: confidence and worrying too much about what the tribe thinks.
Does that mean it’s easy to overcome them? Certainly not easy. Impossible? Absolutely not. Without a doubt, it can be accomplished, and even more so when you know exactly what steps to take.
As I said at the onset, I know intimately what it feels like standing in front of an audience, scared as hell. The pressure, the butterflies, the heart jack hammering, knees buckling, the ability to remember your speech fading…boy do those bring back some harsh memories.
Well, the cool thing is I recently launched a massive course for how to deal with those fears, both understanding them and how to get over them for good.
If you are sick and tired of feeling that way, check it out. See if it’s for you. If not, at least you took a stab at it, you know, like what an audience member might do to you some day.
Help expose these fears! They've been invisible for far too long, wreaking havok. Share this post and make 'em famous!
About this guy...
Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life and it can change yours, too. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.