BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – As both college students and K-12 students across East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish settle into classrooms and prepare to tackle assignments, some may look forward to projects that require public speaking while others view such tasks with a looming sense of dread.

Sometimes, this sense of dread can be traced back to a condition called glossophobia, which is a fear of public speaking.

According to Psychology Today, approximately 25 percent of people struggle with glossophobia.

According to Dr. Theo Tsaousides, a contributor to Psychology Today, this fear can be triggered by any of the following feelings or scenarios:

  • Lack of experience as a speaker
  • Anxiety about being criticized or evaluated
  • Speaking in front of a room full of strangers
  • Sharing ideas that are new and may not be agreed with
  • Speaking to people who are of a higher social and/or professional status

Fortunately, most experts agree that a person can learn to work through glossophobia and make the most of assignments that require public speaking.

Three suggestions that may be helpful are below.

#1 Focus on your audience’s feelings

This may sound odd, but it can work.

If a person is full of anxiety about what will happen to them once they step in front of an audience, their stressful feelings can be debilitating.

But some counselors suggest that presenters move their focus away from themselves and reset it on the people in their audience.

Why does this matter?

To illustrate, suppose a skilled hair stylist is tasked with cutting a customer’s hair but she spends the entire session looking at herself in a mirror while cutting her client’s hair.

Will she do her best work? Probably not.

On the other hand, if she’d given the client her full attention, she would have done a fantastic job.

Similarly, when speakers address audiences, it’s typically a good idea for these presenters to focus on their audiences and not on themselves.

So, how does one do this?

Well, before the presentation, take a moment to think about the people who will be sitting in the room with you and ask yourself: What do they know about the topic I’m presenting? How does my information relate to them? How can I make this information useful/helpful to them?

By answering these questions, you’re not only improving your presentation but moving your focus away from personal anxiety and focusing on the feelings of your audience. It’s likely that eventually you’ll care more about how your audience is feeling than about what you’re feeling.

Psychology Today says, “That should be the driving focus as you write your speech: to craft what you have to deliver in a way that truly delivers value to your audience, and in a way that they can easily understand and appreciate.”

Shifting your focus away from yourself and moving it to your audience can be a great way to ward off a measure of anxiety.

#2 Become passionate about your content

Finding a way to personally relate to your content and becoming convinced of the value of the information you’re sharing can give you confidence as a speaker.

Psychology Today advises that truly caring about the information you’re sharing will likely help you “feel much more comfortable—and confident—delivering your message, and you’ll be more likely to impress your audience as well.”

One way to find the value in a topic is to relate it to your personal life.

For example, if you’ve been tasked with presenting a speech about the history of Louisiana’s sweet potato, you might think about your favorite sweet potato dish and the memories/feelings that eating it evokes. Or, you might hate sweet potatoes.

Any of these thoughts can be included in your speech. This will help you make the presentation your own and fuel your desire to share the information and your feelings on the topic with others.

Along those lines, Harvard University’s Professional Development Division of Continuing Education suggests, “Inject a funny anecdote in your presentation, and you will certainly grab your audience’s attention. Audiences generally like a personal touch in a speech. A story can provide that.”

#3 Study great public speakers

Once your thoughts are focused on the feelings of your audience and you’ve written a speech that you’re passionate about, it can be beneficial to get on YouTube and look up videos of people who are known as effective public speakers.

You can find these speakers on YouTube’s collection of TED Talks or Toastmasters International speeches.

An article on the subject from Best Colleges advises, “When you watch these individuals, take note of their body language. You’ll find that it tends to remain open and inviting. They use their arms and hands in ways that accentuate their key points. They also avoid unnecessary fidgeting and wisely use the space provided to them to capture the audience’s attention.”

It’s not that these speakers need to be mimicked, but they can provide a frame of reference to help you understand how to gesture and use the space provided during your presentation.

While there are many great speakers, including a number of people who have struggled with glossophobia, none of them are perfect. And most audiences don’t expect speakers to be perfect.

Usually, they simply want to listen to someone they can relate to and learn from.

The previously mentioned article from Harvard concludes with the following words, “Nobody expects you to be perfect. However, putting in the requisite time to prepare will help you deliver a better speech. You may not be able to shake your nerves entirely, but you can learn to minimize them.”