Deconstructing the Fear of Public Speaking: How to Get a Handle on the Nerves Within


Fear of public speaking is very common and nearly everyone can suffer from this type of phobia regardless of demographic or age. The thought of speaking in public can leave us frozen with fear. Such fear can in turn cause us to miss out on many academic, social, and career opportunities.

On 15 November 2017, Ms Joanne Ford, Head of Learning, APAC of BlueKey Learning discussed the physiological reactions associated with public speaking and shared practical and proven techniques to manage fear and speak with confidence.

Ford began by introducing the term “glossophobia” which refers to the fear of public speaking and how common it is among many people. This fear affects people’s ability to communicate effectively, thus preventing them from seizing important opportunities.

To address and manage such fear, Ford first took the audience through how the brains of nervous speakers and confident speakers react to situations and how this triggers specific hormones that manifest in physiological reactions. The main difference between a confident speaker and a nervous speaker is how a confident speaker has the “reins” or control over his/her brain’s limbic system. This can be achieved by mentally and physiologically aligning one’s body, voice, breath and mind.

Ford listed three areas of change to improve on public speaking: physical, mindset and rehearsal. These areas overlap and depend on each other for a speaker to be effective. Public speaking is a physical activity that requires practice to improve. It is a skill that is developed overtime through persistence and resilience which requires a determined mind. Eventually, through many rehearsals of combining these aspects, a speaker will be better prepared and more confident.

She emphasised that an effective rehearsal is when one removes as many uncertainties as possible by looking at every aspect of the delivery of one’s public speaking. This may include familiarising oneself with the venue and flow of events. To rehearse for impromptu speaking, Ford recommended actively “storing” potentially useful information and utilising structures and storytelling to rehearse if such situations come up.

The talk ended with Ford addressing the audience’s questions, such as how to capture an audience’s attention and influence them, what parents can do to encourage children to become more confident public speakers, and more tips on how to prepare for impromptu speaking.

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