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Thread: Reasons for Fear of Public Speaking

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Isabella Amaris's Avatar
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    Reasons for Fear of Public Speaking

    lol as I write this, my hands are actually ice-cold, so you can guess how afraid I am of public speaking in real life...

    Anyway, to get back to the point of this post, I was thinking that understanding the reason behind a fear is probably the best first step to getting over it. So, I was thinking that, you know, a thread on possible reasons for a fear of public speaking might help...

    Hmmm, okay, I'll start things off... Someone pointed out to me recently that maybe I see a group of ppl staring at me when I talk as a pack of ppl. And I am outside the pack, and therefore vulnerable.

    Instead of thinking this way, I should see the group of ppl I'm speaking to as the individuals they are (just loosely collected together in the same place), each with different thoughts about whatever I'm speaking about/not...

    I thought this was an interesting reason for a fear of public speaking... It felt kinda right to me... Especially since I have absolutely no problems at all talking to individuals. Am planning to remember this the next time I speak in public... which will be to a roomful of fellow students in about two days, in the hope that it will banish my fear. lol wish me luck please!

    Does anyone else know of possible reasons behind the fear of speaking in public?

    ETA: It worked I was relatively fear-free during my presentation today ha!
    Last edited by Isabella Amaris; 11-02-2011 at 12:52 AM.
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  2. #2
    Fantastic historian Anne Lyle's Avatar
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    Lack of practice.

    I regularly have to give presentations for my day-job, sometimes to important scientists. Having done that every few weeks for five years, doing a reading or panel at a convention is easy

    I recommend starting small, and working your way up. A lot of it is down to experience and self-confidence.
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Isabella Amaris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anne Lyle View Post
    Lack of practice.

    I regularly have to give presentations for my day-job, sometimes to important scientists. Having done that every few weeks for five years, doing a reading or panel at a convention is easy

    I recommend starting small, and working your way up. A lot of it is down to experience and self-confidence.
    I think this is pretty key, Anne. I don't really do all that many presentations generally, but I've noticed that I get better at it the more I do.... Hmmm, but the fear doesn't actually go away, even if my presentation is better... In other words, my confidence regarding the actual presentation is fine, but the reaction at seeing a group of ppl before me is still there, albeit suppressed so that it doesn't inhibit the performance...

    Anyway, tried the method I mentioned in my post above, which was basically to harass myself into remembering that I was presenting to individuals and not a pack of ppl, and it worked! Very relieved I've finally found something that works for me Hope this lasts
    Last edited by Isabella Amaris; 11-02-2011 at 12:59 AM.
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  4. #4
    The Anti-Magdalene KellyAssauer's Avatar
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    Social Anxiety Disorder is my reason, or the other SAD, since I have them both (Seasonal Anxiety Disorder being the other) so I find it almost impossible to address any group.

    Two years ago at an end-of-season banquet for a organization I belonged to, the speaker went around the room asking each 'new' member to stand up and say something. He got to my name and I shook my head and waved him off. I wouldn't do it on the spot, I need a month's warning just to prepare.

    I've thought about it a lot as to why I have that fear. Other people do it. I've even seen kids and teenagers do it. People tell me there's nothing to it, but I don't like it. I don't belong in the limelight, and I know I don't belong there. So I maybe that's a self esteem thing? -but it's more likely a fear of being made fun of, which was drilled into me during my school years. That's when I found out how dangerous it was to be noticed and I quickly learned to become invisible - learned to stay invisible at all cost. That lasted into college where I once had to get the Dean's permission to be excluded from a class presentation project because I could not do it and yet had straight A's in the class and badly needed those credits.

    So I don't know what to say. I just avoid it.
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    Lost in the Fog rugcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isabella Amaris View Post
    Does anyone else know of possible reasons behind the fear of speaking in public?
    I'm not sure it's a rational fear -- it may be hard wired. It's a social anxiety phobia, and is thought by many professionals to be related to OCD. And individuals suffering from OCD know full well that the rituals they practice are irrational, but it doesn't change the anxiety they feel if they don't complete them.

    If one has a mild fear of public speaking, it can be overcome by repetition -- doing it enough. If it's more severe, there are coping mechanisms that can help.

    There are several musicians who have had to give up touring because of crippling stage fright, even though they are accomplished performers.

    But many people are uncomfortable with public speaking -- it's probably the most common fear around. So unless you're paralyzed by the very thought, it can get easier.

    Here's an interesting link:

    http://www.ocdla.com/socialphobia.html
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    practical experience, FTW Isabella Amaris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KellyAssauer View Post
    Social Anxiety Disorder is my reason, or the other SAD, since I have them both (Seasonal Anxiety Disorder being the other) so I find it almost impossible to address any group.
    Interesting stuff, Kelly Assauer. I have no real knowledge about SAD (the first one anyway), and have been reading up on it. It does seem paralyzing alright, very similar to what I experience sometimes. I suppose trying to reason things out might count as cognitive behaviour therapy to try and sort through the psychology of it, but honestly, it's baffling at the best of times. I'm just hoping that my lack of fear at my last presentation will carry through in the next one (the coming week). What I tried out the last time seemed to work for me, but I suspect fingers might always have to be crossed for this kind of fear. *hugs* to you, and hope SAD gets worked out of your system somehow at some point...
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Isabella Amaris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rugcat View Post
    I'm not sure it's a rational fear -- it may be hard wired. It's a social anxiety phobia, and is thought by many professionals to be related to OCD. And individuals suffering from OCD know full well that the rituals they practice are irrational, but it doesn't change the anxiety they feel if they don't complete them.

    If one has a mild fear of public speaking, it can be overcome by repetition -- doing it enough. If it's more severe, there are coping mechanisms that can help.

    There are several musicians who have had to give up touring because of crippling stage fright, even though they are accomplished performers.

    But many people are uncomfortable with public speaking -- it's probably the most common fear around. So unless you're paralyzed by the very thought, it can get easier.

    Here's an interesting link:

    http://www.ocdla.com/socialphobia.html
    Ack, what you mention about the musicians is scarifying, hmmmm... Here's to none of us ending up in that boat.

    The link between OCD and social anxiety phobia... that kind of makes sense when I think about it.... I don't think what I experience is at the level mentioned in that very informative link (my bugbear seems restricted purely to large group situations, I'm actually okay with smaller groups in fact), but this is all definitely food for thought. Thanks!
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  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW stray's Avatar
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    As mentioned above most phobia are over-come by the sufferer exposing themselves to the thing they're afraid of. You have an irrational fear of birds? Look at some picture books of birds. Talk about birds with people. Maybe gradually you can get round to touching a feather, and then touching a real bird.

    I had social anxiety and got over it with some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (look it up on rugrat's link). But still I used to be terrified of public speaking. Then I began teaching. The first few months were rough, but after a year of being in the classroom everyday I could entertain up to 300 kids or adults at these bizarre English camps. There came a point, for me, after some therapy and after so much exposure to public speaking that I let myself go, and the fear went away.

    I don't think many people are naturally comfortable publically speaking without having had a few shaky gigs first. We're all in the same boat and nobody ever really wants you not to do well at anything, really. Once you realize that its easier.
    Last edited by stray; 11-08-2011 at 05:14 PM.

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    Fear of making a mistake and people laughing at you.

    With me, I decided the best cure for my fear of public speaking was to do it anyway. So I did. It didn't kill me. (I think.) And now I'm not scared any more.

    Of course I still get butterflies, but they're closer to excitement than fear.

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    Public speaking is something I have to do every 6 months or so. Not frequent enough to get used to it, but frequent enough to waste too much time worrying about.

    For me, I think it's a feeling of no control - I can't anticipate the questions the audience may ask or how they may react. It's also the fact that all eyes are on me, there's nowhere to hide. But, I find that dealing with the things I can control helps. For example, practise as much as I can, especially out loud, so I don't get tripped up by awkward words or phrases.

    And I agree with scarletpeaches, as someone who has had to struggle against shyness all my life, fear of being laughed at can be crippling. But, it's worth remembering that the audience are human and are there (hopefully!) because they're interested in what you have to say. If not, hopefully they'll just politely nod off. So, no matter how it turns out, if you manage to get up there and do it, you should be proud.
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    Two tricks:

    When you're speaking in public, wear sexy underwear. It puts a smile on your face which lifts your speaking voice, too. And no-one will know why! (Unless they read this post.)

    Secondly, imagine your audience as naked and sitting on the toilet. They won't seem so intimidating then.

  12. #12
    Resident Curmudgeon ResearchGuy's Avatar
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    FWIW, many years ago I had to go on a tour of several cities up and down the state to help present information on a new law (I'll spare details -- it had to do with health-facility regulation, and was quite complicated in content and in administrative methods). I was one member of a panel. When some of the others froze up in front of the crowd at our first event, I jumped in and ex-temped responses and explanations. The others -- one especially -- looked at me in goggle-eyed amazement. The thing is, I had exhaustively studied the law, had written about it, had drafted forms and procedures, and could virtually recite the law by memory. Which rolls around to the conclusion: knowledge and understanding of your topic are your friends. If you know something stone-cold, fear of speaking falls away. Or so my experience suggests. (Other examples over the years confirmed that first experience.) It is also excellent to be comfortable answering questions with "I don't know" and offering to follow up later, rather than stumbling through an ill-prepared response.

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    practical experience, FTW Isabella Amaris's Avatar
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    Thank you for all the comments. And it was very helpful to read through the tips to combat such fear (thinking knowledge, practise AND sexy underwear now;D - sadly, desensitisation hasn't worked for me yet, stray).

    Hmmm, this was something I hadn't thought of really, and I wonder if it cuts to the crux of the matter:

    Quote Originally Posted by monkeymum View Post
    For me, I think it's a feeling of no control - I can't anticipate the questions the audience may ask or how they may react.
    Interesting...
    Last edited by Isabella Amaris; 11-19-2011 at 03:23 AM.
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    No Stamina Reifier's Avatar
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    As authors, do you have to do the reading? My voice goes raspy in like three minutes.

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    knows a hawk from a handsaw Shakesbear's Avatar
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    When you stand up to speak to a group of people you change from your own perception of self, that is you become some one else. I think that developing a persona other than your own for public speaking can help combat the fear. I used to do lots of talks to charity organizations and I had a character to step into - one that I had devised. It was, if you like, a form of acting. People who knew me well and attended talks would often comment that I was a different person when I gave a talk - it took me time to work out why they said that. I had written notes for every talk I did, but mostly knew the script. Speaking with out reference to notes/script gave, I was told, the impression that I knew my subject really well and was an expert (often far from the truth!) so questions at the end of a talk were rare. If asked a question to which I did not know the answer I was honest and said so. Well, my character did. I sometimes messed up - was booked to do a talk and took the wrong slides and the wrong notes.




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    I second scarletpeaches recommendation of imagining your audience on the toilet, or in their underpants, or whatever. You would not believe how well that works

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shakesbear View Post
    When you stand up to speak to a group of people you change from your own perception of self, that is you become some one else. I think that developing a persona other than your own for public speaking can help combat the fear. I used to do lots of talks to charity organizations and I had a character to step into - one that I had devised. It was, if you like, a form of acting. People who knew me well and attended talks would often comment that I was a different person when I gave a talk - it took me time to work out why they said that. I had written notes for every talk I did, but mostly knew the script. Speaking with out reference to notes/script gave, I was told, the impression that I knew my subject really well and was an expert (often far from the truth!) so questions at the end of a talk were rare. If asked a question to which I did not know the answer I was honest and said so. Well, my character did. I sometimes messed up - was booked to do a talk and took the wrong slides and the wrong notes.
    This is what I had to do to overcome my fear. I get the teacher personae, and can do whatever I want in front of my classes.

    Some other things you can do:
    Think about why they want you to speak. If people are asking you to speak, you must be very smart and good at your job. So you know more about the topic than everyone in the room. You're the expert, not them.
    Focus on that, you know a lot, and no one is smarter than you.

    Think about the worst case scenario well before the speech, at least 3 or 4 days in advance.
    What is the worst thing that can happen, you make a mistake and the audience ignores you, with maybe a few chuckles.
    Will they kill you? No
    Will you lose your job? No.
    Will they take all of your money and throw you onto the street naked? No.
    Whenever you start getting scared, just remember that nothing bad will happen to you.

    When you start to panic, do some breathing exercises. Take deep breathes, only moving your stomach. Don't move your shoulders or chest, just your stomach and lungs. Feel the air slowly fill your lungs, and hold it for a few seconds, let it out slowly. Focus on your breathing, let the oxygen in, and push the carbon dioxide out. Do that for anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 or 2 minutes. I usually do it before heading in to teach a class.

    Prepare, prepare, prepare. Some people are good at speaking with limited preparation, but most people need to prepare a lot. Make a speech you like, and practice it until you can say it in your sleep. On the big day bring it with you on cue cards, in big easy to read words. Make sure they're numbered.
    When you get scared or confused look at the cards.

    Hope this helped.

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    The ever absent-minded CChampeau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scarletpeaches View Post
    Secondly, imagine your audience as naked and sitting on the toilet. They won't seem so intimidating then.
    Naked I've heard. Sitting on the toilet - by Jove, that might actually work!
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anne Lyle View Post
    Lack of practice.

    I regularly have to give presentations for my day-job, sometimes to important scientists. Having done that every few weeks for five years, doing a reading or panel at a convention is easy

    I recommend starting small, and working your way up. A lot of it is down to experience and self-confidence.
    Practice is huge huge huge. If I get out of practice I might stutter a little. Audience matters too. I hadn't stuttered for awhile but the first time in open court it took me a couple minutes to get smooth.

  20. #20
    The voices tell me what to write. William K Elliott's Avatar
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    It is an interesting question; why are we afraid to speak publicly?

    When I was much younger (without disclosing my 44 years on the planet... oops!), I was terrified of speaking in public. I was once an extra in a school play (I was a hippie), where all that was required of me was to sit and sway to the music. I was freaking terrified!

    Somewhere along the line, this fear disappeared. Completely. I still get a little nervous about forgetting what I am supposed to say, but I have zero fear of speaking in front of people. You could hand me a prompt and stick me in front of a thousand people, and I would have no problem.

    The thing is, I'm really not sure as to why. I've taken no classes on public speaking, and I'm still every bit the introvert I was back then. I wish I knew why the change came about, as I'm sure I could help others with their fear of public speaking, but I really have no idea.
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    Does anyone else know of possible reasons behind the fear of speaking in public?
    Tell you mine: I get red blotches. I'm fair-skinned and it's really noticable. I can't control it. My neck flushes red and my cheeks are two red spots. It's ridiculous. I know everybody's thinking, Good God, look how red she's getting!

    I'm kidding. I know they aren't thinking that.

    Wait, maybe they are.
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  22. #22
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    One of the best ways to defeat fear is to disarm the audience, and the best way I've ever seen to do this is self-deprecating humor. The great humorists are invariably wonderful at this.

    If you want a pile of splendid examples, I suggest Mark Twain Speaking, a comprehensive volume of Twain's known public presentations, compiled by Paul Fatout about three decades ago, and issued in an excellent hardcover volume by the University of Iowa Press. Both instructive and hilarious.

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  23. #23
    we are the words 'i love you' kuwisdelu's Avatar
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    I just don't even think of the audience as people. Makes it easy for me.
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  24. #24
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I think the most common reason to fear in front of public and a audience is lack of self confidence, which always need to be there before you going to speak in public. For which you need to be sure of what you are going to talk and what the age and gender of your audience, mean including children, young, adult and or seniors. Then speck according to their interest.

  25. #25
    Miss Conceived Liralen's Avatar
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    I finally figured out that mine's not so much a fear as it is ojeriza of sorts -- an intense dislike/distrust of the whole experience, probably in part from growing up with an extremely narcissistic mother and sister and a hypercritical father. Nothing was ever satisfactory, and anything I did, any small acknowledgement came with a string of criticism and/or ridicule.

    Figuring it out went a long way toward taking some of the dread out of the equation.

    Look deep, find the roots of why it gets to you. Then you can start digging them out.
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