By the SMU Social Media Team
The term “glossophobia” might sound like an irrational fear of applying way too much lip gloss, but it actually refers to the fear of public speaking. And glossophobia is, in fact, incredibly common amongst people—no matter age or demographics.
For the majority of us who would rather tackle bungee jumping than to address tens or even hundreds of people alone, the thought of embracing a culture of interaction and speaking up at school or work sounds intimidating, to say the least.
However, SMU, with its renowned interactive pedagogy, is the perfect environment for facing, and conquering, this very common fear. Communication and speaking up is important in this day and age, whether you are pitching your start-up before a group of venture capitalists, holding your own in a high-pressure panel interview, or simply chatting with folks from all walks of life at a networking session.
Here are five reasons why speaking up doesn’t have to be all that anxiety-inducing:
1. Start in a Safe Haven
Speaking up doesn’t mean being in the limelight, but growing a communication skill that can be applied any time by anyone—even introverts or ambiverts. It’s an essential skill to make better presentations, be able to articulate yourself clearly, boost self-advocacy and so on.
Before you step into a boardroom or on stage to present a compelling speech about a new product from your company or raise funds for a non-profit group, find a safe environment to build on your comfort level and hone your skills. For students, SMU is a safe space for you to practise being a confident orator. Our interactive pedagogy offers many opportunities for you to take baby steps in building this skill, through group project presentations or expressing your views during a seminar, even if you would rather sit back and listen to the discussion.
2. You’re Your Biggest Critic
Veteran speaker Deborah Shames said in her book Out Front: How Women Can Become Engaging, Memorable and Fearless Speakers, that the negative self-talk that plagues many women and men often prevents us from being heard.
“We can never achieve our full potential if we avoid public speaking,” adds Shames.
Silence that inner critic, and allow your authentic voice to be heard. You will soon find the audience soaking up your story and rooting for you, rather than critiquing what you have to say. Train your eye on the friendly, inviting faces that you spot in the audience, and instead of assuming that you’re boring because someone is looking at his phone, assume that he has an urgent message to attend to.
3. As Easy as Telling a Story
Often, we are stressed out preparing for a presentation packed with statistics and facts, instead of focusing on telling a story. Zone in on the objective of your presentation and what you are trying to achieve, instead of memorising and rattling off a chain of facts and figures. You might want to weave in a personal anecdote that is relevant to your topic, or speak from experience. But always remember what you want your audience to take away from your “story”, so your objective is achieved.
4. It Should Come Naturally
How often have you written a full script for a speech you are about to deliver, before dispassionately regurgitating what you wrote or, worse, reading off your print-out?
A good presentation is one that is genuine and heartfelt—which can only be achieved if you focus on your key points and truly attempt to engage your audience, rather than repeat what you have prepared before.
5. You Can Only Get Better—Really!
Even the most experienced public figures and celebrities still get stage fright before each performance, so you are not alone when you’re feeling jittery before a presentation or speech. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet admitted to being terrified of public speaking but joined a course by self-improvement author and trainer Dale Carnegie to get over his fear. He said in an interview, “You have to learn to communicate in life, it’s enormously important. If you can’t communicate and talk to other people…you’re giving up your potential.”
While the fear might not go completely away, the more you speak up in front of people, the more comfortable you will be with public speaking. Rehearse your presentation regularly and take the opportunity to speak up whenever you can.
Keen to take the next step with SMU? Join our undergraduate programme today.