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Public Speaking and Performance Anxiety


  1. How common is the fear of public speaking?

The fear of public speaking or Glossophobia, is very common. A study conducted by Alexandre Heeren states that as much as 77% of the population has some level of anxiety regarding public speaking. Of course, many people are able to manage and control the fear. If your fear is significant enough to cause problems in work, school, or in social settings, then it is possible that you suffer from a full-blown phobia. Another study carried out by the National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population. The underlying fear is judgment or negative evaluation by others. Public speaking anxiety is considered a social anxiety disorder.


  1. What is performance anxiety for public speaking?

Stage fright or performance anxiety is anxiety that can be described as fear or a persistent phobia which may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of an audience, whether actually or potentially. The actually/potentially of public speaking is making our anxiety question do we need to do this, with that it allowing the anxiety to control our thinking which in turn leads to negative thinking eg am I good enough, I didn’t have any time to prepare.

public speaking anxiety

  1. What factors contribute most to your anxiety about public speaking?

Being self-conscious in large groups a factor – if you find yourself nervous or overwhelmed in large groups one of the keys to overcoming your symptoms is to learn how to be more confident and less critical of yourself. When you are self-conscious, not only do you make your anxiety symptoms worse, but you make it harder to be aware of what is going on around you. This can cause you to think that other people are judging you negatively; in reality, they likely aren’t paying attention at all.

Being judged or the spotlight effect – When confronted with danger or perceived danger, like public speaking, the unconscious brain sends messages out to prepare the body to protect itself, for the fight or flight reaction. Among other things, it prompts the release of adrenaline which amplifies our sensations and distorts our judgment. Therefore, we tend to massively exaggerate what the audience thinks or feels. This is known as the Spotlight Effect i.e. a tendency to think that other people are watching us more closely than they actually are. Dr. Michael DeGeorgia of Case Western University Hospitals speaks extensively about the effects performance anxiety has on the prefrontal lobe he states “If your brain starts to freeze up, you get more stressed and the stress hormones go even higher. That shuts down the frontal lobe and disconnects it from the rest of the brain. It makes it even harder to retrieve those memories.”


  1. How do I stop anxiety before presentation?

Accept that being nervous is not a bad thing. Being nervous means, you care about giving a good presentation. Your nervousness produces adrenaline, which helps you think faster, speak more fluently, and add the needed enthusiasm to convey your message.

Prepare – being prepared can help you be less anxious before a presentation or public speaking. Know your topic the better you understand what you’re talking about — and the more you care about the topic — the less likely you’ll make a mistake or get off track. And if you do get lost, you’ll be able to recover quickly. Take some time to consider what questions the audience may ask and have your responses ready.

Breathe – using breathing techniques can be very useful to slow the process of anxiety down thus allowing you to stay in control if your situation.

As discussed above Brain Freeze, practice to recover from this. Practice recovery strategies by purposely stopping the talk and shifting attention to elsewhere. Then, refer to notes to find where we left off. Look ahead to the next point and decide what we’d like to say next. Find someone in the audience to start speaking to. Finally prepare for the worst, if we know what to do in the worst-case scenario (and practice it), we’ll have confidence in our ability to handle it. We do that by preparing what to say to the audience if our mind goes blank. Visualizing successful recovery of the worst will help us figure out what needs to be done to get back on track.

Written by Darragh Horgan.



Montopoli, J. (2017b, February 20). PUBLIC SPEAKING ANXIETY AND FEAR OF BRAIN FREEZES | National Social Anxiety Center. Https://Nationalsocialanxietycenter.Com/2017/02/20/Public-Speaking-and-Fear-of-Brain-Freezes/.


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