06 May 21 / Blog

Glossophobia: The little known condition that’s probably holding you back (+ 4 tips to overcome it)

The term ‘glossophobia’ isn’t well known, but it’s felt throughout every office and boardroom worldwide. And it’s probably holding you back personally and professionally. Here’s why, plus four tips to overcome it.

What is glossophobia?

Glossophobia isn’t some rare disease you pick up on a safari holiday or eating spoiled food.

But it’s a bodily reaction to fear and anxiety.

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking.

And whether you’re an extrovert with bags or confidence or an introvert who likes the focus to be on others, chances are you’ve experienced it at some point in your life.

How common is glossophobia in the UK?

According to Jobsite, an alarming one in three people said they would ‘reject their dream job if it meant facing their biggest fear’.

And guess what their biggest fear was?

Yes, you’ve guessed it… glossophobia.

The same study found that a massive 56% of those who fear public speaking say that they have avoided applying for specific jobs because of it.

But the actual figures for the phobia could be even higher, with some experts suggesting that three out of four people in the population has “some level of anxiety regarding public speaking”.

What is an example of glossophobia, and what does it feel like?

You’re in a group setting, and everyone’s asked to introduce themselves.

As the line goes around the room and gets closer to you, you feel a sense of panic.

A bead of sweat nestles on your forehead, and your mouth feels dry.

During the quieter moments, you can hear your heartbeat.

And like the Eminem song ‘Lose Yourself’, your “palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy”.

As the introductions move ever closer to you, your body enters a kind of fight or flight zone, and your senses are heightened.

Your muscles tighten, and you frantically search your brain for something to say when it’s your turn.

How can I overcome glossophobia?


We often judge ourselves too harshly.

We’ve watched effortlessly brilliant speeches like this one from former US President Barack Obama when he dished out a public speech full of humour and relatability.

We’ve admired Oprah’s passionate, articulate speeches throughout the years.

And we all know those people in the boardroom and on our media airwaves who just seem to possess a natural charisma and the ability to find the right words when called upon. 

Well here’s the secret to their success.  Practice, practice, and practice some more.  And get over the idea that you’ll be perfect first time. 

That old adage got it wrong.  When it comes to public speaking, “practice makes progress.” 

But how can you make your practice powerful?  Well, if you’re serious about overcoming glossophobia, here are some steps that you can take:

1. Don’t try to emulate great speakers, but watch how they deliver.

It’s never a good idea to emulate someone else, but you can channel their best ideas. 

Watch how they stand at the microphone and their open, welcoming body stance.

Look at how often they smile and where they pause for effect between sentences.

Understand how they engage their audience through humour or easily digestible facts.

Learn from their eye contact and cheerful hand signals to describe things.

2. Overcome glossophobia by learning how to breathe.


It’s no coincidence that most of the best sportsmen and women in the world have mastered the power of breathing.

But good, focused breathing isn’t just a focus for world-class athletes, but also for business professionals looking to deliver a speech with impact.

Before you deliver your speech, take a few minutes backstage to get your breathing under control by utilising the 5-5-10 breathing approach.

First, close your eyes and inhale and exhale deeply and slowly.

Then inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 10 seconds.

Repeat this for a couple of minutes and feel the zen-like calmness take over your body.

3. Ask the right question.


Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching”.

And he was right. Before you deliver a speech, you need to practice it.

Firstly, deliver it to yourself but record it on your phone or laptop to see how it comes across.

Then, with the help of friends or family, deliver it again, asking your audience what they felt as they listened to it.

And here’s the one question to ask. ‘What’s the key message from my talk?’

No matter what they say, smile and thank them for taking the time to listen to you.  And if you didn’t like what you heard, then it’s time to revise your talk.

Because everyone will have an opinion on how you should deliver your talk.  But only you know what it is that you want your audience to hear.  Use your feedback partners wisely.

4. Fifteen minutes before your speech, do some tongue twisters for a great vocal warm-up.


You don’t have to be Celine Dion or Pavarotti to do vocal warm-ups.

It’ll come as no great surprise to you, but most of the world’s most outstanding speakers don’t just arrive on stage and start speaking.

They’ve been worked diligently in the weeks and days beforehand.

And in the minutes before they begin, they’ll warm up their vocals.

For an excellent vocal warm-up, watch Madeleine Harvey’s ten-minute vocal warm-up.

If you’re pressed for time, do Julian Treasure’s six voice warm-up exercises.

Here’s the full run down of your routine from the moment you wake up on the day of your talk.

Conclusion


Glossophobia is a real phobia, and it impacts every facet of modern life.

It stops supremely talented businessmen and women from moving forward in their careers.

And it causes anxiety and stress to those who might only have to make one big speech (a best man’s wedding speech, for example).

But this fear of public speaking is embedded in our psyche by how we judge ourselves and how we perceive others to judge us.

By preparing your body mentally, physically and using the tactics we’ve covered in this blog post, you will give yourself the best possible chance to overcome glossophobia.

Glossophobia might have defined your past, but you don’t have to let it rule the present and the future.

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