Merge's Blog

Overcoming speaker anxiety

Glossophobia: the fear of speaking in public…

If you’ve ever experienced sweaty palms, a rapid heartbeat, or a cold feeling in the pit of your stomach just before you had to stand up in front of a group of people and make a speech, then you should know that you are not alone. Various surveys suggest that glossophobia is experienced by 75 to 80 per cent of people. In fact, a now-classic study conducted in 1973 discovered that people are more afraid of public speaking than of death. Ironically, that literally means most people at a funeral would prefer to be lying in the casket rather than giving the eulogy. Yet despite its much-hated status, the ability to speak publicly is a necessary skill for professional success.

As someone who speaks for a living, I am often asked for advice on how to overcome this fear.  So much so, that back in 2004, I wrote an article specifically on this subject.  Read the entire article here.

If you are a leader, you have to be able to compose your thoughts and deliver your message,  sometimes to large groups of people? What are you doing to overcome speaker anxiety?


  • Hi Merge,

    This is so true. Most people won’t openly admit it, but speaking in front of a crowd sends their knees knocking, their palms sweating, and their heartbeat soaring. I am usually one of those people. Although I have found recently that the larger group settings make me more nervous (if that’s the word to describe it) for a day or two in advance of the speaking engagement, rather than during. I have found that my level of practice and preparation serves me well, and that the fear or anxiety or even nervousness subsides immediately prior to getting on stage. I typically walk away from those engagements feelign elated and excited to take on the next challenge. Now if I could just get the same thing to work for the smaller boardroom meetings with key executives. I often find that situation a little more difficult, for some reason.


  • Dave, it really does come down to practice. When you’re in those smaller boardroom settings, try to remember how you felt when you were on stage with the larger groups. Logically you know this … if you can do it in one arena of your life, then you can do it in the other. Good luck, and keep at it!


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