There’s an old piece of advice regarding public speaking – those onstage should get over their nervousness by imagining the audience naked. But unfortunately, many would-be public speakers are the ones who really end up feeling exposed.
Being afraid of public speaking is one of the biggest fears people have. Some people who have no fear about blathering on and on to their friends suddenly clam up when scheduled to say a few words in public. Remember when Ralph Kramden, the blowhard blabbermouth of “The Honeymooners,” got a severe case of stage fright on the show whenever he was on TV? Stage fright happens to many people.
Here are some of the reasons why people are afraid of speaking in public:
They are afraid of making a mistake and sounding stupid
People are terrified of making some sort of mistake, whether it be saying the wrong word or phrase, stumbling over their words, or even cursing without realizing it until it is too late. They also get nervous and worry they will have some pregnant pause where they can’t remember what to say next, and flop onstage.
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Saying the wrong thing in private conversation is easily correctable. But onstage, saying the wrong thing is something that could put a damper on the entire speech. Look what happened when Gerald Ford lost a presidential debate after he said that there was no Soviet domination of Poland. Of course, in many cases, a seasoned professional speaker can easily correct their error and move on, but the fact is that saying the wrong thing can potentially hurt your speech – and your career. And a neophyte speaker may be too flustered after making a mistake to continue. So it’s understandable that so many people are afraid of making a mistake.
They are worried about going viral
Horror stories about malapropos aside, it used to be that most mistakes a public speaker could make would easily be forgotten, as long as the speaker handled it with aplomb. These days, though, with the ubiquitous phone video cameras everywhere, a person making a bad mistake speaking could be filmed and end up becoming a viral sensation, with thousands or even millions sharing their humiliation. Look at the college student who did the TV broadcast and said “Boom goes the dynamite” or the other would-be sports anchor who said “And that happened” while on the air.
They don’t like the sound of their own voice
A cliché about those who like to talk a lot is that they love the sound of their own voice. Well, many would-be public speakers don’t like the sound of their own voices. Or they may like the way they sound in normal conversation, but they speak too fast or too slow when speaking in public, or too loudly or too softly.
In summary, public speaking is something that many people get nervous about, but even the best of public speakers were once nervous at one point. It really is something that people do get better at if they practice.