Public speaking

Written by Katherine Nicholls
Katherine Nicholls
Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Reviewed by Faye Hatch
Last updated 22nd April 2024 | Next update due 22nd April 2027

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. For some people, this anxiety develops into a phobia - known as glossophobia. Here, we will look at how hypnotherapy for public speaking anxiety and glossophobia can help you build confidence.

What is glossophobia?

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 can mean that when public speaking situations do come up, we can feel anxious.

Public speaking may be avoidable for some but, for others, it's not. We may need to give presentations at work, give speeches at events or even attend interviews. Public speaking can be a great way to share ideas, so many of us want to feel less fearful of doing it.

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.

Glossophobia has its roots in social anxiety and social phobia. When we're speaking publicly, the audience will be paying attention to us and listening to what we 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 if we make mistakes. Even if we only make one small mistake when speaking, our minds tend to focus on this, justifying our fears.

Symptoms of glossophobia

Symptoms 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

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 do I overcome my fear of public speaking?

When it comes to fears like this, there are several approaches you can take. Hypnotherapist Dolina Hendry shares some tips to get started:

“Initially, you can practice the five P’s of public speaking. Plan, Preparation, Practice, Performance and Passion. Practice and practice again and keep practising as this will help you. You know your material, so with preparation, planning and practice you deliver a passionate performance.”

Dolina notes that there are several ways you can practise, including in front of the mirror or inviting friends over to watch.

“Ask your friends or colleagues to critique your performance and always remember that we are our own worst critics. Remember that whoever you are presenting to, they genuinely want you to do well. They are rooting for you to do well.” 

Once you feel you’ve perfected your talk in practice, Dolina recommends playing it over in your mind like a movie.

“Always remember that the words you speak and the pictures you paint in your mind, can become your reality, so choose the words and pictures carefully. As Bob Proctor said: ‘Thoughts become things. If you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand’. 

“Using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is also very powerful. This is something that can be practised daily, using positive affirmations and mind pictures. When it comes to delivering your presentation/speech it will help you feel more confident.” 

If you start to feel anxious when thinking about or practising your speech, a number of popular breathing techniques can help increase calm and balance. 

Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is an exercise that involves breathing in and out and holding the breath in counts of four. It works by distracting your mind as you count to four, calming your nervous system, and decreasing stress in your body.

Colour breathing is a simple visualisation exercise that can help to reduce stress and encourage relaxation. Put simply, colour breathing involves imagining a relaxing colour entering your body while you take in a deep breath and then, as you breathe out, visualising the stress and tension leaving your body through an unfavourable/disliked colour. 

It’s important to note that some breathwork exercises may not be suitable for everyone. As with all breathing techniques, advice should be sought if you are pregnant or have a severe medical condition. If you are a beginner, working with a professional will ensure that you’re breathing correctly.

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 are 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 onto something more positive. 

Hypnotherapists who can help with fear of public speaking

How can hypnosis for public speaking help?

Practising and utilising breathing techniques can go a long way to reducing the fear of public speaking. For some people, however, deeper work may be needed. This is because, as with many phobias, glossophobia isn't something you can typically control consciously. The symptoms you experience stem from your subconscious and may need to be addressed there.

“Hypnotherapy works because it accesses your subconscious mind,” Dolina explains.

“Your conscious mind is analytical, logical and critical, whereas your subconscious is much more responsive and open to different suggestions and associations which qualified hypnotherapists are trained to use to help retrain your thinking. Everything you have learned good and bad is stored in your subconscious mind which drives your conscious mind.”

“Your state of consciousness is altered while you are in a relaxed state so that you reframe patterns of behaviour that translate into limiting beliefs in your conscious mind and act as a block to effective performance, and old habits that are unhelpful to you. You always remain in control, and simply experience a feeling of relaxation and chilled-out sleepiness.

“By using hypnotherapy, you can challenge the negative thinking patterns into positive thinking patterns and change your thought processes that are telling you that you are no good or can’t do it. The negative self-talk that can destroy confidence and your belief will be replaced with positive outcomes."

Following hypnotherapy, you will stand tall and have the confidence to face situations you previously avoided or dreaded. You will feel strong and able to achieve what you set out to.

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 the 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 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 in public to help you stay calm and confident.

“As Hypnotherapy works by accessing the root of the problem through the subconscious mind, in my experience most people only need one to three sessions,” Dolina says.

“It’s a rapid, safe and effective technique that doesn’t require months or years of therapy.”

If you’re ready to start working on your fear of public speaking, you can use our search tool to connect with a hypnotherapist today.  

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