man with public speaking fear

I’m Greek, so please indulge me. In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the father plays a game where he takes a word and shows how it is rooted in the Greek language. Here’s my Greek lesson for you.

Glossophobia comes from the Greek glōssa, meaning tongue, and phobos which means fear. Public speaking fear is real and very common. In fact, it is the single most common phobia outweighing the fear of dying.  About 27 million Americans are afraid to get up and speak.

Over the years I have seen countless people get up to present and freeze, get so nervous that they shake or sweat as if they just ran a marathon. This physical response keeps some from sharing their great work, offering new ideas or contributing to their organization. The good news is that you can reduce and manage this fear. The bad news? It takes some work, but it is worth it.

As a society, we tend to believe people who are great presenters- even if the content is flawed or wrong. We also discount people who appear timid or downright scared. In the workplace, the importance of public speaking is often overlooked. People blame their lack of progress on not being in the right department, having the right background, connections or the lack of seniority. That may be the case, but don’t underestimate the importance of communication and effective public speaking skills.

According to Magnetic Speaking, “the fear of public speaking has 10% impairment on your wages & 15% impairment on your promotion.”  Being able to demonstrate knowledge by standing up and speaking out can be the differentiator in your career. As a public speaking coach, I cannot help you overcome the fear of presenting to a group of people in a blog. I can give you a few quick tips to get you started.

Work the Room

It goes without saying that you need to be prepared if you want to stand up in front of an audience and be an effective public speaker. The day of the presentation, arrive early and “work the room.”  Think about what you do at a social gathering. You mingle, meet new people, and greet those you know. Doing this gives you a feel for the room. It also shows people you care about them. Audiences are much nicer and less critical of people they know and like. So, don’t think your presentation begins when you start to speak. It starts when you enter the room.

Stack the Room

This is a little trick that works every time. If you know people who are attending your presentation, enlist their support. Ask 2- 3 people to position themselves in different areas of the room.  Tell them to smile at you! Now you have friendly faces to look at and it will help disperse your eye contact, so you are speaking to the entire room. This little confidence builder is a crutch to get you through until you feel more comfortable.

Own the Room

When you present, the room is your stage and you need to own it. You must take command, and there are a couple of ways to do that. First, don’t stay planted behind a podium. If you need to start there, that’s fine. Then move to the side, while still resting your hand on the podium for support. Walk. Pick a couple of spots in advance and move there with conviction. Stop and continue your speech. Then move to another spot. The mere act of moving tends to loosen people up and make them more comfortable. It goes without saying, don’t walk in front of projectors or screens, if possible.

There is no doubt public speaking is difficult. In fact, it is a lost art for some in a technology-focused world, but the importance of public speaking cannot be denied. Want a promotion? Want your ideas to be implemented? Want to help your employees develop better communication skills?

As a professional presenter and public speaking coach, I have worked one-on-one with individuals from CEOs of major corporations to small groups of employees. Not everyone can be a superstar performer… but everyone can improve, and I can help you get results. To read more about my services or chat about a custom program click here.