Do you have glossophobia?  

If you do, you are not alone – 75% of people have it.  So – what is it? 

Glossophobia is the strong fear of public speaking.  It is a Greek word – Glossa, which means tongue, and Phobos that means fear or dread.  People are more scared of speaking in public, than are scared of heights, spiders, snakes, tornados, fires, or hurricanes.  Why are we so frightened of speaking in public?  Often, we worry about forgetting what we want to say, or that people will laugh at us, or that people will tune us out.  We might even worry that we will do such a great job, we will be asked to speak in public again. 

If you have glossophobia,  it helps to understand what your audience will be paying attention to when you speak.  Studies show that 45% of the audience reaction is based on your voice – how you say what you say.  Another 45% of their reaction is based on how you execute – your body language, your gestures, your personal presence.  And lastly, 10% is based on what you say – the words you speak.

There are some suggestions that you can use to help you overcome your fear.  Since the manner in which you speak is vitally important, be sure you are choosing a topic that you are passionate about and is meaningful to you.  If you are talking about something that is extremely important to you, your talk will be genuine, and your own personality will shine through.  Your audience will give you grace if you fumble or say ah. Speaking from the heart means you will automatically have inflections in your voice – and power in what you say.  Making good eye contact will help both you and your audience – and allows you and those listening to really connect.  

It is important that you are prepared with the content of your speech. You need to know your topic;  however,  even more importantly, you need to know your audience.  What is the demographic makeup of the group to whom you are presenting?  Do they have previous knowledge of your topic, or is this something new, which requires you to provide more basic information?  Are you speaking at their level of understanding, or do you need to adjust your talk?  What is the intended outcome of your speech?  Determine if there is something specific the audience needs to learn.  I love this quote from the Change Cycle training course – “Information and communication are never synonyms – information is giving out, while communication is getting through.”  It is vital that your presentation accomplishes true communication – that the audience understands exactly what you are conveying.  Another great quote from George Bernard Shaw is: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Surveys in almost every business will show that employees feel that there needs to be more, and better, communication from managers, leaders, and within their work group.  Learning to be comfortable speaking up in meetings, presenting your viewpoint and ideas, and delivering your message in a way that is heard and understood is very important as you strive to be a leader.  Allowing your audience to see your true, authentic self is the most relevant element of any speech you deliver.

Leadership Siouxland was privileged to hear from Stacie Anderson during the January session.  She is the embodiment of authenticity and demonstrated that people listen when you speak from your heart.  Here’s hoping that you can face your glossophobia and move past it to become a great leader and communicator!

By Peggy Smith, the Executive Director of Leadership Siouxland. Peggy thrives on helping develop new community leaders.

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