Public speaking phobia - or glossophobia as it is technically known - is no joke.
For many people, there's nothing more frightening or nerve-wracking than having to speak in public. They would rather bury themselves alive than be asked to give a speech.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a phobia is an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects or events.
Therefore a public speaking phobia is a fear of speaking before an audience, also known as stage fright. One way of overcoming stage fright is to understand the origins of the doubt. Let's look at some of the common underlying causes.
We seek people, places, and situations that give us a sense of wellbeing and protection.
Standing before an audience often arouses a sense of anxiety and insecurity. In other words, public speaking sometimes generates an illogical fear. Our primal instincts for dealing with fearful situations are two: fight or flight.
You can either stay to defend yourself or run fast and far. Both situations induce specific effects in your body - the adrenaline rush, quickened heartbeat, sweating, shallow breathing, stiff muscles, and flushed skin, which prepares you to fight or run a mile.
It could have happened to you, or you could have observed it happening to somebody else.
That unwelcome memory is so ingrained in your mind that it distorts your perception of public speaking to a thing of dread and fear.
You fear making a fool of yourself, of being judged harshly, of being humiliated, of failing at your speech objectives, and so on. All of these eat away at your confidence level, which is a crucial component for good public speaking.
Perhaps you've watched elegant speakers and feel that you should be able to communicate precisely to that style and standard.
Public speaking is not about imitating another person, but about nurturing your particular brand of speaking skills. You can learn from the top speakers, but don't try to BE like them.
This irrational fear stems from assuming that people listening will judge you harshly.
In most cases, the audience wants you to speak well because they too will enjoy listening to you. An exception would be when discussing an unfavorable topic or facing an overtly hostile group. But even in such circumstances, there are skills you can learn for speaking under unwelcoming conditions.
You may be nervous because you know you are unprepared for the 'limelight.' You may not yet have learned how to control your nerves and build up your confidence. Or you have not yet developed techniques that enhance your speaking abilities.
There are lots of ways to learn to either cope with or master these common fears.
Gaining the confidence needed to deliver a speech will require time and effort on your part. But like all things you value, you must be willing to work towards speaking success.