Public speaking

Having a fear of public speaking is common; the thought of getting up in front of a crowd and talking is enough to make most of us break out in a sweat. 

More and more of us are utilising email, social media and texting to communicate, meaning there's rarely a need to speak in front of an audience. This all means that when public speaking situations do come up, understandably we can feel anxious.

For some people this anxiety develops into a phobia - known as glossophobia. Public speaking may be avoidable, but for some of us it's not. It's also a great way to share ideas and propel ourselves forward in our career, overcoming this fear can therefore have powerful effects. 

Here we will look at how hypnotherapy for public speaking anxiety and glossophobia can help you build confidence.

Man giving a speech

Glossophobia (fear of public speaking)

Glossophobia has its roots in social anxiety and social phobia. When we're speaking publicly, the audience will be paying attention to you and listening to what you have to say. Glossophobia comes from a fear of being judged, which can be triggered when lots of people are paying attention to you. This, combined with doubts over your ability to deliver can feel overwhelming.

Fear of public speaking can be reinforced when we make mistakes. Even if we only make one small mistake when speaking, our minds tend to focus in on this, justifying our fears.

Symptoms of glossophobia can include: 

  • avoiding situations where you may be required to speak in front of a group
  • feelings of panic when asked to speak publicly
  • nausea
  • increased heart rate/palpitations
  • shaking
  • dry mouth

Experiencing a little anxiety when asked to speak in public is to be expected. If your anxiety overwhelms you however and holds you back from what you want to do in life, you should consider seeking support.

It's important to note that a fear of public speaking isn't limited to making speeches in front of a crowd. Those with glossophobia may withdraw from a number of social situations, such as asking for directions, attending job interviews and speaking to shop assistants. It is a phobia that can have severe effects on day-to-day life.

How can hypnotherapy help?

As with most phobias, glossophobia isn't something you can control consciously. People may tell you to 'relax', but usually this does little to control your symptoms. This is because the symptoms you experience stem from your unconscious.

Hypnotherapy works with your unconscious to find out where the root of your anxiety comes from. Typically it comes from misinformation gathered from a past experience. Hypnotherapy can help to identify this and use suggestion techniques to correct any misinformation.

What I find with most clients is that it stems from something that happened at school when they first learned about being embarrassed in front of their peers.

If it’s learned, then it can be unlearned with the help of a skilled hypnotherapist to change the meaning or qualities of those early experiences, which influences the way we feel about certain situations in the present. Alongside that reframing, a hypnotherapist can also teach you different methods of changing how you feel in the moment to amplify even further that speaking in public can be better than you used to think.

Lynne Wilkins - NCH (MReg), MNLP, QCHPA

Suggestion and visualisation techniques can also be used to instil positive thinking, boost confidence and reduce anxiety. This will help you feel calm and collected when you speak in public. 

Fear and your mind

When we experience fear, our minds tend to work against us. We have an influx of automatic, negative thoughts that feed into our sense of self-doubt. Becoming more aware of these thoughts and speaking to yourself with kindness is a great first step to managing your fear of public speaking. Fear makes our minds behave differently, to a point where logic and reason is all but forgotten. It does this by distorting reality and fixating on the negative. 

Reality distortion

Fear has a habit of distorting reality. You may think "If I forget my words, everyone will laugh at me and I'll lose their respect." In reality, however, it is highly unlikely that this would happen. If you were to lose track of what you were saying, it is far more likely that everyone would simply wait for you to remember. And even if some people did judge you, this wouldn't really affect your life.

This fear and anxiety can cause us to lose our perspective, thinking our lives will be over if it doesn't go perfectly. Try to challenge this way of thinking by asking yourself, "Will this situation matter in five, 10 or 20 years time?".

Fixating on the negative

Another common behaviour of the mind when it feels fear is to focus on the negative. This can lead us to think back to times in our lives when public speaking hasn't gone to plan. It can also cause us to fixate on the physical sensations that are frightening us, like an increased heart rate or a tight chest.

Recognising this is helpful as you can re-direct these fixations on to something more positive. In a hypnotherapy session your hypnotherapist can teach you relaxation and visualisation techniques. Try to utilise these and imagine yourself doing well.  

woman giving presentation

How hypnosis for public speaking works

Hypnosis is essentially a state of deep relaxation. When a hypnotherapist puts you into this state, your unconscious becomes more receptive. This means the hypnotherapist can communicate with this part of your mind to uncover root causes of behaviour and influence thinking patterns.

In some cases it may be easy to pinpoint the underlying cause of a phobia. You may be able to recall an event that triggered a fear response for the first time. For many people however, it is hard to identify what caused the phobia.

If you don't know why you have a fear of public speaking, hypnotherapy can help. Once you are in a deeply relaxed state, your hypnotherapist can talk to your unconscious and help to uncover the situation or event that triggered your glossophobia. Much of the time, the event is seemingly insignificant, but over time it grows in our mind to become something we can no longer control.

Once the root cause is revealed, your hypnotherapist can use suggestive language to change the route of your thoughts. The aim here is to promote positive thinking and a sense of calm when faced with public speaking, instead of the previous flood of negativity.

Some hypnotherapists will also teach you self-hypnosis, relaxation techniques and visualisation exercises. These enable you to continue your progress away from the hypnotherapy sessions themselves. You can utilise them before you need to speak publically to help you stay calm and confident.

Hypnosis can alleviate the fear by addressing it directly in the mind. The fear is identified, and the reaction of the mind is altered so that the effects are considerably reduced. This is not to say that the fear goes away, but rather that the intensity is far less and manageable, so that a person can speak with greater confidence in public forums.

Biodun Ogunyemi ANLP, BNLP, SNLP, C.H, Dip.Hyp

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