What causes the fear of public speaking?

Coaching for stage fright, therapy for glossophobia or speech anxiety, the excessive fear of public speaking
Stage Fright

What causes public speaking anxiety?


When you know the causes of your speaking anxiety, it can be more easily resolved. Here are common causes of speaking anxiety.


What causes public speaking anxiety?

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Public speaking anxiety


As a coach, I support my clients to present themselves and their messages compelling. As a therapist, I help people with fears and anxiety disorders.




Fear of speaking


As a coach, I support my clients to present themselves and their messages compelling. As a therapist, I help people with fears and anxiety disorders. A common issue is stage fright. Often it goes beyond that and is speaking anxiety.




Speaking anxiety


Speaking anxiety is common. For many, it represents simply a fear of public speaking, which is also known as glossophobia. For some, it may be a fear of speaking at all in any kind of public situation, including when they’re out with their colleagues and friends.

When you get nervous while speaking, your mind will have the tendency to cause significant negative self-talk, and therefore to increase the likelihood that you see negative reactions in others. This is the direct result of living with anxiety, and it is something that you can improve if you treat it correctly.

It can be challenging to overcome speaking anxiety, specifically because it is so easy to avoid most situations where it is necessary.




What to do?


There are some steps that you can take to help make it easier. One of the first things that you can do is to understand some causes for your public speaking anxiety.




What causes speaking anxiety?


There are a number of reasons why a person may experience anxiety about public speaking. Before you learn how to manage it, it is helpful to realize what causes this type of anxiety.




1. Hyperarousal


Those who suffer from anxiety will experience a heightened state of arousal, which can leave them with an overwhelming sense of fear. This fear impacts their ability to feel comfortable in front of others, which makes public speaking a difficult task. There is a high likelihood that those who experience anxiety in other areas are more prone to be anxious about public speaking.




2. Traumatic experience


Traumatic experiences can have an impact. Public speaking anxiety is often a learned behavior. That is, at some point in the past you failed, and the seed of self-doubt was planted. If you know your content and how to deliver it, there’s no reason to doubt yourself. When you insist that it will happen again, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Plan to succeed instead.




3. Fear of being judged


When so many eyes look up at you, it may feel unpleasant. Anxious public speakers feel more visible, in the spotlight, and cannot get the instant reassurance or positive feedback that we are used to in conversation as the formal audience will simply not feel entitled to react. This leads to inner dialogs and assumptions about what the audience thinks of you.




4. Inexperience with socializing


Speaking in front of others is something you can get used to. Most good public speakers I know are great socializers. If you struggle with socializing, then it is more likely that someone also struggles with public speaking. The more frequently we talk to others, the easier we may find it to speak in public.




5. Lack of experience


Just like how more socializing can make you feel more comfortable speaking in public, so can more experience with public speaking. The more experience you get with getting up in front of a crowd and talking, the more confident you will get in your abilities, which can lessen your anxiety about it. Becoming used to getting attention is very helpful.




6. Negative self-talk


Negative self-talk is a serious obstacle for those with public speaking fears. Many imagine worst-case scenarios. They may over-analyze what occurred when speaking publicly, trying to find all the ways they messed up. Everyone misspeaks sometimes, so you’re likely going to find something no matter what, and whatever you find is then used as proof that your speaking anxiety is warranted.




7. Poor preparation


It may sound absurd, but many people with a fear of public speaking also practice less than those without that fear. That’s because they experience anxiety while practicing and try very hard to avoid that anxiety. Unfortunately, that may cause them to be less prepared. And nothing else undermines public speaking confidence like being unprepared. But nothing gives you as much confidence as being ready. Your choice.




8. Poor breathing habits


Unless you’ve been trained as an actor or singer, you’re probably unaware of how to breathe for speech. Public speaking requires more air than usual. Also, you need to control your exhalation to sustain sound through the end of your message. Diaphragmatic breathing is the way to do all of this. It’s also helpful for calming your heart rate.




9. Lack of relationships


An underestimated part about public speaking is that overall confidence in yourself plays a role. Strong friendships make people more confident. It is good to feel fully supported by those around you.




10. Comparing with others


Inexperienced speakers often do self-sabotage before they have even started with their speech. They are too preoccupied with comparing themselves with others, which often leads to negative energy and self-image. Doing this in front of an audience is distracting at best.

Don’t compare yourself with others. You need your resources to be present. And you want to be the best version of yourself instead of a copy.




11. Perfectionism


Setting impossibly high standards for yourself will kill your public speaking. Instead, set realistic, high goals for yourself and work toward them. It helps to learn how to challenge the irrational beliefs that underlie perfectionist concerns by setting realistic goals, accepting failure as a learning opportunity, and forgiving ourselves when it wasn’t completely perfect.




So what?


These are just a few examples. Many can cause the fear of speaking in front of others, like having to speak to a crowd of people who are of a higher status than you, such as experts or especially important persons. Or when having to present new ideas. Or when you know you are being judged based on your performance. Many factors can have an impact on the intensity of anxiety you have about public speaking. When you know your personal causes, it will be easier to address them in therapy.




Overcoming speaking anxiety


It can be a bit of a challenge to overcome speaking anxiety, specifically because it is so easy to avoid most situations where it is necessary. More beneficial than avoiding is to get help to overcome your speaking anxiety. This way you will change that nervous energy to a positive and thrive on stage. As a result, you will present yourself and your message convincingly.

Help with stage fright


If you want to be successful, then you are challenged in many places to speak and present effectively, to convince and to fight for your ideas. Unfortunately, many people remain silent because they suffer from enormous stage fright. Stage fright can have a stimulating effect. But sometimes fear outweighs and the person falls silent. So many people hold back with their ideas. This is a pity, especially if someone has something valuable to contribute.

Does stage fright or performance anxiety block you and thwart your ambitions? Then get active! It is possible to dissolve your fear of public speaking.

Since 1998 I have been helping people to present themselves and their messages convincingly. During this time I have helped many speakers with intense stage fright. Because it is sometimes more than just stage fright, I have the necessary therapeutic approval. You will be in good hands with me - if you want to enjoy your performances in front of your audience.

You can judge for yourself where the effort is worth it concerning the expected benefit. Here you can find the fees for my support.

In case you are not in Berlin right now, choose meetings with me via telephone or video support. Whereby there are quite good reasons for a trip to Berlin.

Benefit from my experience in marketing, psychology, and communication. Find out more about me in my profile.

Just ask me personally


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If you are interested in coaching, training or consulting, if you have organizational questions, or if you want to make an appointment, you can reach me best via this contact form (you can choose whether you want to enter your personal data) or via e-mail (mail@karstennoack.com). You can also reach me by phone at +49(0)30 864 213 68 or by cell phone at +49(0)1577 704 53 56 from Monday to Thursday from 9:00 to 18:00. Most of the time I am in meetings, so please leave a message with your phone number in Germany. Please remember to be very specific about the reason for your call. I will get back to you as soon as possible. The privacy policy can be found here.

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Speech anxiety as an obstacle for your career

Stage fright is a common experience, most people know the queasy feeling as well as the sweaty fingers, and that is already unpleasant enough. But what if speech anxiety becomes a career killer?

This article is a short excerpt from the more comprehensive course materials my clients receive in a group or individual training or coaching.

Published: May 4, 2016
Author: Karsten Noack
Revision: August 20th, 2023
Translation: ./.
German version:

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