Posted by: brandextenders | August 19, 2011

Are You Glossophobic?

If you were asked today what is the thing you fear most in life, what would your answer be? Dying, going to the dentist, heights, the dark, arachnophobia? While all of those are close to the top, most research confirms the thing people fear most in life is public speaking. In fact, many say they would prefer death to getting up in front of an audience. This fear is shared equally by men and women, is said to effect up to 5% of the world’s population (it’s not just an American phobia) and can ruin careers and shatter lives.

The term glossaphobic comes from the Greek word glossa or tongue and phobia meaning fear or dread. Symptoms can include intense anxiety, nausea, increased heart rate, quavering voice, profuse sweating and avoidance of any event where someone might be called on to speak.

There are many reasons why this fear is so pervasive in our world and it usually starts at a young age. 75% of us feel vulnerable getting up in front of a group of people, whether it’s just a few sitting at a table in a work meeting or hundreds gathered in an auditorium waiting to hear your words of wisdom. Shyness, fear of failure, lack of preparation, fear of being judged and self-doubt are just a few reasons people give for avoiding speaking in public.

As far back as I can remember I was painfully shy and still to this day have to work hard not to fall back into the shell I’d sometimes rather hide in. Ironically I can stand up in front of hundreds of people and speak, but it’s the one-on-one situations that have always scared me most. Many famous people have had to overcome various levels of shyness and fear to get to where they are (or were) including Carrie Underwood, David Letterman, Tom Hanks, Abraham Lincoln, Julia Roberts, Jimmy Stewart and Thomas Jefferson.

If you are called on to give a speech, there are things you can do to help ease this fear, understanding that some trepidation and fear can actually help us get better at what we do.

  • Research: You probably know what you’re going to talk about; perhaps an area of expertise, a passion or a hobby. Combine research of the topic with your own knowledge to prepare a compelling talk. Be sure to use humor and empathy as both will help you feel more comfortable and put your audience at ease. Tell stories on yourself that tie in with your topic and if appropriate, use the most up to date facts and statistics to back up your premise.  
  • Prepare: It’s probably not a good idea to write your speech out word-for-word as even professionals using teleprompters can have trouble sounding credible if they have to follow a script. Use bullet points instead and bold the words and points you want to emphasize. Double space your notes and make them large enough so you don’t have to struggle seeing them. Make sure your speech progresses logically and that you have a beginning, middle and end. Remember, the first :15 – :30 seconds will determine whether you will be taken seriously by your audience so make your opening something that will grab and hold their attention.
  • Practice: It’s rare that someone gets good at what they do without practicing over and over again. The same is true with giving a speech. Now that you have your researched notes and an outline, practice giving your talk to someone you trust who can give you feedback or even to a mirror. If you’re really adventurous, tape yourself giving your speech during a practice run and then watch or listen to it. You’ll quickly see things that are working and things that aren’t. Continue to practice and you’ll not only get better at giving your talk, but you’ll feel more comfortable as well.
  • Use Your Imagination: Your thoughts are a powerful tool and can help you in many ways. Imagine yourself being successful. Close your eyes and really see yourself giving an amazing speech that receives a standing ovation from an appreciative audience. Why not? The sub-conscious mind is remarkable and wants you to do well so feed that part of your brain using conscious thoughts of success.

The best way to get better and feel more comfortable with talking in front of groups, be they large or small, is to just do it. Being able to talk in front of others can build your confidence and, if you’re like me, help you grow beyond your shyness.

Jerry Seinfeld summed it up best on speaking in public: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I work with my customers to evaluate their promotional marketing needs and develop creative and measurable solutions based on those needs. I build long-term relationships to become a trusted advisor my clients turn to for their brand extension, promotional product, incentive and other branding needs. Contact me at

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