Many of us have glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, when the idea of having to appear in front of a large group seems daunting or even impossible. Larry Ventis, Professor of psychology at the College of William and Mary, says, “Fear of public speaking has its roots in what the audience is thinking about the speaker. There may be different reasons for different people because fears aren’t one kind of thing. But, I think, basically, people are concerned about how others react to them, evaluate them, what they think of them, that sort of thing. Fear of public speaking is kind of a reflection of social anxiety and social fear.” Many teachers who are just beginning their careers may feel nervous because they aren’t confident that they know all of the answers, or will be able to anticipate the needs of their students. Bosses may be worried that their employees won’t understand them or be interested in what they have to say. Ventis says that confidence and experience are highly beneficial, and understanding the root cause of fear helps us to overcome it.

Michael Port, author and speaking coach, suggests treating a public speaking scenario like a performance. Preparation and practice helps a great deal, as does memorization. When you know everything that you’re going to say, you won’t feel as rushed or hesitant. Port offers lots of advice, including a reminder to not to discredit our work by saying something like, “If you take one thing away from my speech, let it be this…” because that tells the audience that their time was just wasted. Although public speaking may be intimidating, it can be managed overtime with practice.


  • Larry Ventis, professor of psychology at the College of William & Mary

  • Michael Port, speaking coach, author of the book, Steal the Show: From speeches to job interviews to deal-closing pitches, how to guarantee a standing ovation for all the performances in your life

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