Your hands start to get cold and sweaty, your legs start to shake uncontrollably, and your heart begins to rapidly pound against your chest. The pressure is building up as the time approaches for you to present. Several thoughts begin to form in your head. Am I going to freeze and forget everything I need to say? How do I recover if I stumble? Are people going to judge me if I do a terrible job?
Many people experience this uncomfortable situation, which is known as public speaking anxiety. This is called glossophobia, which is a common phobia and as many as 75% of people have it.
Guidance Counselor Jeremy Wang says, “In most cases, public speaking anxiety comes from the fear that the audience will judge you negatively, or even ridicule you. The fear inside you is the source of your anxiety.”
He recalls, “When I first started learning English in middle school, I would rather hide behind a desk than answer the teacher a question in English. When we begin to learn a new language, it is inevitable to pronounce some words wrong in the new language. The more practice we have, the sooner we will be able to master the language.”
When sophomore Leah Musheyev was giving a presentation in writing process class last year, she remembers that her “face got so red and [her] voice was so shaky that no one could really understand and that [she] completely forgot what [she] was going to say.”
Similarly, freshman Melanie Esterine says, “When I was valedictorian in eighth grade, I had to [give] a speech at graduation. The night before graduation, I couldn’t sleep, I was drenched in sweat, and I just started bawling. At the ceremony, my hands wouldn’t stop shaking, but as soon as I started my speech, it all went away. By seeing my parents in the front row, I gave my speech the best way I could.”
In addition to experiencing the physical symptoms of public speaking anxiety, it can affect one’s emotional or mental state, such as making them feel self-conscious or insecure.
Sophomore Jaewoo Nam reveals, “This sort of anxiety really affects how I view myself and what I think others think of me because I dread looking and sounding awkward in all situations.”
Sometimes, insecurities can overcome one’s self-esteem and prevent them from accomplishing their goal. For example, senior Pamela Wong states, “I used to be scared of raising my hand [in class] because I would be nervous about what people thought about what I said or I thought it would sound dumb. But in actuality, when I did speak up, teachers would be surprised and tell me it was good or tell me that it’s alright if it’s wrong.”
Furthermore, public speaking can be beneficial because it teaches people to step out of their comfort zone, build up their confidence, and allow them to open up to others.
Junior Christine Lee remarks, “Ever since I ran for a leadership position in Key Club, my public speaking anxiety has gotten a lot better. Now I feel like my speaking skills have definitely improved. I think the best thing to do to conquer public speaking anxiety is to gain more experience. As scary as it may seem, the more public speaking you do, the more confidence you gain and the more comfortable you feel doing it.”
Leah adds, “Because [my] teacher pushed us to speak in class, I think my speaking skills really developed, so now it’s easier for me to speak in front of my class and make the audience engaged in whatever I’m speaking about. “
Although speaking in front of a large audience may seem intimidating, with a certain amount of practice and determination, public speaking anxiety can be diminished. Sophomore Neeram Lekha advises, “Don’t be scared to speak in public and don’t be scared to make mistakes for whatever reason. No one is going to judge you because everyone makes mistakes and everyone’s human.”