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Learn about glossophobia, the fear of public speaking.

Did you know what is more scary than death and darkness to an average person? No, it’s not the fear of heights or even claustrophobia, the fear of confined spaces. It is actually the fear of speaking in public, also known as glossophobia!

You will notice that all fears are essentially called phobias, and that term is the suffixed part of the word glossophobia. So what does phobia actually mean? The dictionary meaning of phobia is “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.” Phobia by itself is a word of Greek origin that means dread or fear. Glossa is also from Greek, and it means the tongue.

Glossophobia, and Other Phobias

Want to know more about what types of phobias people have? The Phobia List site has hundreds of phobia names!

If you are terrified to speak in front of an audience, you may have glossophobia. However, you are not alone. In fact, you may be in some distinguished company. Many famous speakers suffered from this phobia, and they overcame these fears to become world famous speakers. Abraham Lincoln admitted that he had glossophobia, and he was able to conquer it completely. In time, he became one of most well-known orators of his time. There are many others including Orville Wright, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein who were very shy of speaking in front of an audience. If so many of them could get over glossophobia, then certainly, you can overcome it as well!

Before we proceed further, you should know that this is not just an article on conquering glossophobia. Rather this is just an article that will create awareness about this phobia, and also provide you with encouragement to overcome this condition.

Talking about encouragement, you must realize that your best friends who will help you overcome glossophobia is comprised of your audience. That's not very reassuring for many speakers because for them the audience may be the primary reason for glossophobia in the first place! Therefore, understanding that this thought is a mere myth is the most important step that you can take. Remember that the audience is in attendance only because they want to hear you, and benefit from your ideas. They are not there to make you uncomfortable. In fact, they are the reason why you are speaking in the first place! And if they did not want you to succeed, why would they take out their precious time and spend it with you?

That realization itself should encourage you. So how can you cure glossophobia? Here are some tips:

  1. Understand that the audience wants you to be successful.
  2. Be sincere. When you are not absolutely confident, then sincerity is the most important factor that will give you confidence.
  3. Practice often. You can even practice in front of a mirror. You can also video-record yourself and view later. Then try to improve.
  4. Read books on body language, presentation skills, and voice modulation.
  5. Try to find opportunities to speak in front of an audience because the more you speak, the better you will become.
  6. Join an organization such as Toastmasters. Look if they have a club that's located in your part of the world.

This article was first written on May 15, 2015 and was substantially rewritten and updated on August 31, 2020.

Geetesh Bajaj (Glossary Page)