Can you learn to speak in public with Glossophobia?​

Ed Darling
9 min read

What you’ll learn:

  • The difference between glossophobia, anxiety and nerves.
  • Therapies, techniques and treatments.
  • How to genuinely improve your confidence.
woman speaker with glossophobia

Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking.

Glossophobia is thought to affect as much as 77% of the population in the UK.
While most of us experience occasional nerves, glossophobia is characterized by a “persistant and excessive fear” – specifically related to speaking to a group of people. 
It can be a childhood trauma, a negative experience in adult life, or simply a gradual build-up of nerves that gets out of hand.
The challenge with glossphobia, is that left alone, it’s likely to get worse.
When you fear public speaking so intensly, you usually respond by avoiding it as much as possible. This strategy may feel safer in the short-term, but it keeps anxious speakers stuck in a prison of their own fears.
In this article we’ll explore ways to overcome glossophobia, and how to shift from public speaking anxiety, to a feeling of authentic confidence.

Social anxiety, glossophobia, or normal nerves?

It can be helpful to define a few terms here, before we begin.

Unlike glossophobia, a person with social anxiety is likely to struggle with all kinds of social situations.

Everything from phone-calls, to interviews and even the offiice party may trigger their fear response in a debilitating way. They’ll often end up avoiding such situations, self-medicating with alchohol, or simply enduring the stress while putting on a brave face.

Someone with Glossophobia typically only has a problem when they have to stand up and speak to a group. So while normal social interactions might cause them no issues, they freeze at the thought of delivering a speech, pitch or presentation.

Then there’s the normal nervous butterflies that all humans are likely to experience when out of our comfort-zone. These nerves will typically settle down once the person begins speaking, or after they’ve had some experience of doing so.

Whereas for someone struggling with social anxiety or glossphobia, their feeling of panic may continue to intensify.

Another distinction is the severity of anxiety that a phobic speaker will experience. They’ll often have symptoms that feel entirely out of their control, including:

    • Blushing and sweating.
    • A trembling or quiet voice.
    • A dry mouth.
    • Difficulty breathing.
    • Uncontrollable shakes in their arms, hands or legs.
    • An extremely fast heart-beat.

    These symtoms can come on fast.

    One minute you’re about to speak up in a meeting, the next your heart is thumping and your body is ready for a life-or-death jump out the window.

    While normal nerves can be easily tackled with some encouragement and practise, what can you do if you’re struggling with the more extreme forms of anxiety or glossophobia?

charismatic speaker scorecard

Discover Your Charisma Score!

The Charismatic Speaker Scorecard benchmarks your ability to speak in an engaging way, and identifies opportunities to improve based on three key areas:
  1. Confident Mindset
  2. Compelling Content
  3. Engaging Delivery
Take the scorecard to find out how ready you are to speak in public – and receive a report that’ll tell you exactly what to work on.


Therapies and treatments for glossophobia.

There are a variety of different medical treatments for glossophobia.

Common therapies include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), talking therapies social
skills training, exposure therapy, and medications that aim to reduce the persons anxiety response.

Unfortunately the effectivness of these treatments appears to be limited for many people.

If you’re dealing with glossophobia, it’s more common to undertake self-help rather than medical intervention. This is usually in the form of attending things like public speaking courses, signing up for a speaking group, or having coaching to help you communicate with confidence.

I believe this form of guided exposure and training, is the best solution for most people.

It’s what worked for me, and I’ve seen first-hand so many of our clients transform their anxiety into confidence.

But regardless of what route you decided take, there are number of key steps required to overcome your fears of public speaking.

Each of these has been shown to improve long-term anxiety symptoms, and increased self-confidence.

We’ve designed our public speaking courses to take you through many of these steps in a guided way.

Let’s take a look at some of them, and how we implement them into our coaching process.

Retraining your attention.

Glossophobia sufferers often develop an extreme focus on their own bodily sensations, fearful thoughts, and anxious symptoms. Because of this, they miss positive social cues and become increasingly trapped in a cycle of self-consciouness.

Our public speaking training helps you to break this feedback-loop by introducing new, more positive areas of focus. Rather than getting tied in knots noticing every little thing you’re “doing wrong”, we help you to direct you attention outwards to where it should be: on your audience.

This involves practical training around eye-contact, vocal variety, body-language and specific mindset shifts to change your perception of speaking in public.

Modifying self-perception.

Speakers with Glossophobia may develop a distorted self-image.

It’s easy to begin viewing yourself in a negative light when communicating, and predicting that you will look and sound much worse than is actually true.

One clinically proven approach to combatting this negative self-image is through using video feedback.

In our coaching and courses, we create a safe environement where you can be filmed speaking on camera. Invariably, people realise that even while feeling inwardly anxious and panicked – outwardly, they appear far more composed and confident.

Coupled with detailed personalized feedback and positive encouragement from the group, this is often a key step in helping people to change their self-image, and begin feeling more confident in themselves.

Ready to feel confident while speaking in public?

Join our next 1-Day Public Speaking Masterclass

Eliminating saftey behaviours.

Saftey behaviours and avoidance strategies are a critical part of the anxiety feedback-loop. To the anxious speaker it feels like they are helping, but in reality these behaviours keep them stuck.

Safety behaviours could include things like:

  • Holding on to a prop such as a pen or paper-pad.
  • Keeping your arms folded or hands clasped together.
  • Only feeling comfortable in specific situations.
  • Speaking faster than normal.
  • Relying on a slideshow.

During a training course or coaching program, we’ll help to identify and remove any saftey behaviours you may be subconsciously relying on.

The goal is to ensure your feeling of confidence is centered firmly within yourself – so no matter what the external circumstances are, you’re able to speak in a calm and collected way.

Voluntarily facing your fears.

Research shows that being forced into an uncomfortable situation makes anxiety worse, whereas voluntarily facing face a fear helps to diminsh it’s power.

It’s the difference between the boss telling you: “I need you to deliver this presentation at the end of the week”. Or them asking, “who’d like to step up and do this?” and you volunteering to do so.

The former is a forced exposure where you have no choice, the latter is a voluntary and courageous decision.

Practising voluntary exposure has been proven to be vital in overcoming many phobias – whether that involves holding a spider, climbing a ladder, or stepping on stage to speak.

This is another reason public speaking courses can be so powerful in terms of helping people overcome anxiety. You’ve made a decision to attend, paid for your ticket, and then shown up front-footed and ready to conquer your fears.

The whole process is changing the fear-dynamic and moving from you from a place of helpless victim, to a position of power.

Overcoming glossophobia is entirely possible.

Public speaking represents a unique challenge if you suffer with glossophobia.

However, we believe public speaking also offers a unique solution.

Learning to speak in public can act as a catalyst for greater self-confidence throughout your life. We’ve seen nervous speakers go on to become outstanding orators, and to completely change their lives in the process.

By tackling the problem in a guided way, it’s possible to become free of the fears that you may have carried around for many years.

Anxiety can feel like something very much out of our control, but with the right training, guidance and mindset, it’s something we can learn to overcome.

If you’d like help overcoming glossophobia and becoming a confident speaker, read about our public speaking courses and coaching here.

charismatic speaker scorecard

Discover Your Charisma Score!

The Charismatic Speaker Scorecard benchmarks your ability to speak in an engaging way, and identifies opportunities to improve based on three key areas:
  1. Confident Mindset
  2. Compelling Content
  3. Engaging Delivery
Take the scorecard to find out how ready you are to speak in public – and receive a report that’ll tell you exactly what to work on.