What Is Speech Anxiety And How Do I Overcome It?

There are many types of fears, but there are a few that seem to impact a large number of people. Fear of spiders, fear of snakes, and fear of dying are some of the more common ones. But, another that many people struggle with is fear of public speaking, also known as speech anxiety. It’s actually the most common form of anxiety, with as many as 75% of people identifying as having a fear of public speaking.


What Is Speech Anxiety?


Speech anxiety, or glossophobia, is simply a fear of public speaking. If you suffer from speech anxiety, you likely experience moderate to severe fear or nervousness when you need to speak in front of others. This could happen whether you are speaking in front of hundreds of people or even very small groups. The symptoms can be physical, verbal, and non-verbal, and may include dry mouth, weak voice, shaking, sweating, blushing, getting hives, and an increased heart rate, to name a few.

The website glossophobia.com defines speech anxiety as “intense anxiety before, or simply at the thought of having to verbally communicate with any group, avoidance of events which focus the group’s attention on individuals in attendance, physical distress, nausea, or feelings of panic in such circumstances.”


Determine Why You Struggle With Speech Anxiety


There are many different reasons why people struggle with speech anxiety. If you want to learn how to overcome it, then you need to determine where the fear is coming from. Once you identify the reasons for feeling this anxiety, you can start to address those root concerns specifically and help curb or even eliminate the issue. Here are some common reasons people experience speech anxiety:




Many people who are perfectly fine talking in front of a few people start to panic or feel a sense of uneasiness in larger groups. A larger crowd gives the conversation a more formal feel, as opposed to the casual feel smaller groups provide. More eyes are staring at them. They may start to worry about what the audience is thinking of them and may feel as though they are being judged, becoming more self-conscious of their mannerisms, appearance, and speaking. These things distract them so much that it makes it difficult to focus on what they are supposed to be talking about.


Failures From The Past


If you have had a bad experience with speaking in front of a group in the past, it can make future encounters with public speaking rather more challenging. You may feel haunted by the events of your past presentation or talk, and worry that something could go wrong again. It might cause you to feel anxiety at just the thought of having to do it again.


Lack Of Preparation


When you are not prepared for the task at hand, it can cause anxiety. If you’ve waited until the last minute to prepare for the presentation or speech that you have to give, it can trigger speech anxiety as you feel unprepared and ill-equipped. You may feel insecure about the material that you have to present and your ability to properly do so.


Lack Of Confidence


Another reason that people suffer from speech anxiety is that they have a lack of confidence. If you lack confidence in general and don’t believe that you have the skills and abilities needed to perform the task, you may feel anxious. Many people that struggle with this become consumed with fear prior to giving a speech. They worry that they’re not good enough, that they don’t speak well enough, that they don’t know the right way to get the audience engaged, or that they just don’t know the material as well as they should.




Comparing yourself to other people oftentimes complicates matters even more. Many people struggle with speech anxiety because they feel like they don’t measure up to others. This could bring about a lack of confidence which can stem from failures in the past. If you are speaking with other presenters, this can be especially hard. You know that the same audience that will be watching you, will be watching the other presenters, and you don’t want to perform poorly in comparison to them.


How To Overcome Speech Anxiety


Once you have identified the underlying cause(s) of your speech anxiety, you can start to address them. Sometimes, getting to the root of the problem can help reveal solutions. In other cases, the solution may not be as obvious or clear. Here are some general tips one can use to alleviate speech anxiety when it strikes.


Learn Better Breathing Habits


Anxiety is often accompanied by shallow breathing. This often increases the heart rate, which triggers our fight-or-flight response and amps up anxiety even more. If you want to overcome anxiety, it may be helpful to practice deep breathing exercises. Practice breathing in through your nose while making sure that you are expanding your lungs from top to bottom. That means that your diaphragm should move as well while you breathe. Once you have breathed in, hold it in for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale it out through a partially open mouth. Once you have completed your exhale, start again.

To help with this, you can practice a method called “box breathing” – breathe in to the count of four, hold for the count of four, breathe out to the count of four, hold at the bottom for the count of four, and repeat as many times as needed. Deep breathing exercises can help calm your nerves and settle your body.


Practice Visualization


When we experience anxiety about something, we tend to focus on the negatives. We perseverate on it and run all of the negative scenarios in our heads over and over again. You can overcome this by practicing positive visualization. Practice thinking about yourself speaking in front of a group and doing a great job. This can help you build your confidence and feel more comfortable with the task at hand.


Join A Group To Practice Your Skills


If you are in a position where you are required to speak in front of people on a regular basis, it can help to join a group that helps you practice your skills. These can be local community groups, groups within your university if you’re attending college, social media groups, or online organizations.Toastmasters International is one such group. You can work on developing your skills with other individuals in similar positions, without having the fear of being judged.


Be Prepared


There are many ways that you can prepare for a speech or presentation to overcome speech anxiety. Start by making sure that you are familiar with the material you’re going to be speaking about. Then, practice it until you feel that you know the material well. Additionally, if possible make sure that you are familiar with the location you are presenting in and that you know how to get there. Find out where to go once you arrive, and then make sure you’re not rushing before you have to speak. Practice the deep breathing techniques that we discussed before to help re-center yourself and your thoughts.


Practice Self-Care


Practicing self-care can go a long way in helping you overcome speech anxiety. Start by exercising on a regular basis, if possible. Exercise helps to cut anxiety and boost your mood and confidence. If you have to give a big presentation or speech, try to make sure that you exercise the morning of, whether it’s a walk, a run, yoga, or weightlifting – whatever works best for you!

Make sure that you eat a healthy diet that can help promote a sense of wellbeing and calmness. Avoid having caffeine or sweets the day of your presentation. Avoid soda or the sugary muffin from the coffee shop. Instead, try to eat things like whole grains, fruits, and stay well hydrated.

Take care of your personal hygiene and dress per code with comfort. This will help you feel more confident when you get in front of a group. Avoid wearing an outfit that you will need to keep adjusting or feel self-conscious in. Additionally, make sure that you use the restroom before your presentation to minimize the risk of having to go during, or worrying about having to go during.


Change Your Focus


When we suffer from speech anxiety, we are focused on ourselves. One way to improve this is to change your focus from yourself to your audience. While you are talking, focus on the friendly faces in the crowd. Instead of worrying about how you look, how your voice sounds, or if you’re going to get your words right, focus on delivering valuable information to the audience. Think about how the information that you’re giving them is going to help them and improve their lives. Keeping the focus on your audience removes your focus from yourself, which can help ease anxiety.


Talk To A Counselor


If you experience strong anxiety when you need to speak in front of other people, it can help to talk to a licensed therapist. They can work with you to help you get to the root of the problem and properly address it. BetterHelp has professionals that are ready and waiting to help you overcome your speech anxiety. Specifically, a study conducted by the Berkeley University Department of Psychology found that BetterHelp is just as effective as face-to-face therapy, with 94% of users preferring it and 98% of users making significant progress in their mental health journeys. Online therapy is an important bridge to help for people working through speech anxiety, with most users making significant progress.

It’s a convenient option for you to use, particularly if you have social anxiety and the idea of going to an office to speak with a therapist in person is a bit intimidating or nerve-wracking for you. Online therapy also tends to be more affordable than traditional in-person therapy, as you not only don’t have to pay for gas or transportation to reach your appointment, but the therapists charge less due to not having to rent out office space. Continue reading below to find reviews of some of our licensed therapists who have helped people with speech anxiety.

“I had the pleasure of working with Ann for a few months, and she helped me so much with managing my social anxiety. She was always so positive and encouraging and helped me see all the good things about myself, which helped my self-confidence so much. I’ve been using all the tools and wisdom she gave me and have been able to manage my anxiety better now than ever before. Thank you Ann for helping me feel better!”





Here for you as life happens …



To access your AWP EAP services, call 1-800-343-3822.  Your EAP is here to help with family, work, health and legal issues.  EAP Services are provided at no cost and are 100% confidential.


Alliance Work Partners is a professional service of Workers Assistance Program, Inc.
Copyright © 2018 Workers Assistance Program, Inc.

Leave a Reply