My short bio: Hey Redditors! I got my PhD in Psychology and I specialize in anxiety. Here's a cheat sheet on how to control public speaking fear, performance anxiety, and social anxiety. To manage fear, it helps to understand the two phases of fear and what parts you can and cannot control.

My Proof:

Wednesday - Hey, great questions! I'm going to stop for today. I'll be back tomorrow and look forward to more questions and dialogue.

Thursday - Stopping for today. I'll finish up any remaining questions tomorrow.

Comments: 99 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

Toblergnome18 karma


I do public speaking every so often and despite how often I do, I still get very very nervous.

I guess the question is do the nerves fade away over time? Or is it normal.

Also, how well does an improvement in public speaking transfer over to normal conversation scenarios such as meeting people? (Something I'm also very nervous about)

mindful218 karma

Yes, great question.

The law of habituation says the more you do something, the less you fear it. That works as long as you're not scaring yourself with fearful thoughts. I suspect that is what is happening in your case.

Your nervous system gets sensitized when you experience something fearful (threatening) in a particular situation. Your nervous system gets de-sensitized when you experience safety over time in a particular situation. So your nervous system is going to naturally get de-sensitized in a public speaking situation when you repeatedly go into it with a sense of safety. Public speaking is actually a safe situation, but when you add fearful thoughts, your brain interprets it as unsafe, and it has a harder time going through it's natural process of desensitizing. So those fearful thoughts can get in the way of "nerves naturally fading over time." If you participate in a "lab" where you're practicing new thoughts and desensitizing your nervous system through repetition (in a group with others who share your fear), that's a great way to get the nerves to fade.

So to answer your question, nerves do fade away over time as long as you're going into the public speaking situation with the right frame of mind. Here are some of the most common "thought patterns" that cause nervousness. I've also included some possible counter-thoughts you can use:

▪︎ Fear is bad and fear symptoms are bad. Actually, first fear is natural and I should expect it. I will get some adrenaline in my body and I will experience some symptoms. If I don't add fearful thoughts on top of first fear, I can keep fear to a minimum.

▪︎ Social standards are high and I have to be perfect. Actually, social standards are not as exacting as you think, and most people are friendly and supportive.

▪︎ I can read minds. Do you jump to conclusions and assume people are thinking negative things about you? Studies show that people with public speaking fear/phobia tend to think of social situations as more competitive or hostile than they really are. In many cases, people are thinking neutral or positive things, and people are much more supportive than you might think.

▪︎ Focusing on the negative. Research has found that those with social anxiety or public speaking fear tend to focus on the negative (like focusing on the one person in the audience who is not smiling) rather than focusing on the positive (like all of the others in the audience who are smiling).

▪︎ Having unclear goals like “I want everyone to like me.” This is unachievable because you’ll never know if you achieved it or not. It’s more helpful to focus on goals such as “I want to get my message across clearly so I’m going to talk slowly and make sure that I’m communicating as clearly as I can.”

▪︎ Overestimating negative consequences (if I make a mistake, it will be horrible and awful). Actually, the consequences of making a mistake is not usually that bad.

▪︎ Overestimating the likelihood that something horrible will happen. Actually, it’s not that likely that something horrible will happen.

I recommend practicing these new thought patterns in a safe group where you can try new techniques without the pressure of a real-life situation. At the bottom of this page I posted some "labs" that might be helpful.

I love your question about transferring to normal conversation scenarios. I have seen huge improvements with people when they practice public speaking, they become much more confident in a whole variety of social situations.

Not to get too technical, but there is actually a mechanism in the brain that generalizes fear to other similar situations (that's why fear of speaking in public can then spill over into lots of social situations like dating, job interviewing, networking, etc.). The good news, is that the same brain mechanism generalizes confidence to other similar situations (so developing confidence in public speaking will spill over into other social situations).

In fact, the top social anxiety treatment centers (like the Adult Anxiety Clinic, Temple University) uses public speaking as the main form of treatment for social anxiety. One reason is that public speaking anxiety is a type of social anxiety (same root cause). The other reason is that, because public speaking is one of the more challenging social situations, developing confidence in that area will help you in all of them.

SoundCloud_Ramiz6 karma

What are some key personality traits you would recommend most people to try and develop for social success? Also, how did you personally obtain those skills?

Thanks for your time!

mindful214 karma

Wow, that's a really important question. I think maintaining a sense of humor and not taking things too seriously. Easier said than done. I have to take time to "center myself" and put things into perspective. Things can seem so important right now, but how important are they really? How important will they be a few days from now, weeks from now or years from now. The ability to step back and put things into perspective is really important.

And developing a habit of smiling. Also, developing good listening skills and the ability to communicate how you're feeling in a calm, objective way.

I personally learned listening and communication skills in my Psychology program. Those skills have been invaluable, and I wish everyone could have the benefit of that training. It's been so helpful in relationships and my career.

The skill of putting things into perspective is more of a mind-set. Reading up on mindfulness and meditation has helped me to work on cultivating more of an open and non-uptight attitude.

I'll keep thinking about this and will add more if anything comes up. Excellent question thanks!

dedreo3 karma

Just a curious question. Is there a name or pursuit of the type of person who is incredibly socially awkward/stunted, yet the moment they step in front of a crowd, they become super-awesome host person? Just reminds me of someone I once knew, always puzzled me.

mindful23 karma

Yea, that's really interesting and puzzled me for a long time too!

My parent's went to college with a guy who was shy and awkward one-on-one and in small groups. But he flourished in front of big audiences. I saw him in both types of situations many times, and couldn't figure out how he could be awkward in one situation but a rock star in the other situation.

I don't know of a name for this.

When I think of types of performance anxieties, I see them on a spectrum (1) formal situation <----> informal situation, and (2) small group <-----> large group/audience.

I think it's very interesting that some people are afraid of informal, small group situations; some more afraid of large group, informal; some formal, small group; and some formal, large group. People vary on where they fall on these spectrums. The key is where they feel the most potential for negative judgement.

tegelpanna2 karma

As one person that looks like this to outsiders I can add that for me personally it is more like: to be able to cope with large groups or spotlights I assume a role of a super friendly and up beat person. When in reality I feel more safe and as myself being in small groups somewhat in the shadows.

mindful21 karma

Yea, that's great insight. Thanks.

RadXGhoul3 karma

What to do when you are not actually public speaking and suddenly most people/everyone in the room stops and starts watching you?

It feels extremely uncomfortable, specially when you just haven't said anything offensive/taboo, but then it's starts feeling like you just did.

mindful23 karma

That's a great question! It is really uncomfortable. I think the best way to handle those kinds of situations is with a sense of humor. Like smiling and saying "oops...the room went quiet all of sudden!" And see what reaction you get. I would love to hear other opinions!

SheikhShinobi2 karma

Hi Cheryl,

I am actually starting a website called Power stage presence. I am trying to figure out which angle to create effective content. Do you have an tips on how I can reach an audience interested in improved their stage presence and creating powerful performances ?

mindful21 karma

Yes, interesting marketing question! Is this pure content (articles?) or coaching or both?

Huskyot2 karma


I just came to say hi and that the chart, especially the fear symptons part, looks pretty good in explaining when they appear and that brings me to my question:

Do you have a really good read on anxiety symptons?

I actually think you are right when you are saying that you associate them with fear it self and even realising they are there you fear more rather then calming you down, as you know what's happening.

I should mention that i live in EU so it should be something available worlwide, even though i think in my coutry we have people interested in this kind of things so we basically have anything, translated or not.

Thank you very much!

mindful21 karma


When you say do you have a good read on anxiety symptoms? Do you mean do I have any good books to recommend on anxiety symptoms that are available worldwide?

A good resource would be the self-study, online course Master Your Public Speaking Fear. I'm the author of this course, and it explains the symptoms in detail with video animations so you can see exactly how fear works and how to control it. You can take it at anytime from anywhere (it works like a Netflix movie where you can watch it immediately). I don't know of another resource that really explains the symptoms. That's why I created the course - I couldn't find much that gave a good explanation with animations. I'm happy to chat with anyone who takes the course for free (by chat, email or phone) to answer any questions and help you apply the material to your situation.

These books don't really go into the symptoms in detail, but they can be very helpful:

▪︎ Books by Claire Weeks

▪︎ Your phobia: Understanding your fears through contextual therapy

▪︎ Triumph Over Fear: A Book of Help and Hope for People with Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Phobias

▪︎ Managing Social Anxiety: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach

Note: In the next week, I'll be publishing an ebook on Amazon that will contain much of the same material as the course with links to the video animations. When it's ready, I'll post the link here. If you want me to notify you, PM me here with your email or fill out the "Keep Me Informed" form on the bottom of the page at

Spiesinthedark2 karma

Hello Cheryl! Has there been any study relating to public speaking abilities that run in families? Like a nature vs. nurture concept? I'm a natural public speaker, but both of my parents and two younger sisters (ages 17 & 19) find it impossible to speak to crowds. Is there any study behind why that may happen, or do you have any theories?

mindful21 karma

Great question. There have been a lot of genetic studies as it relates to anxiety in general. (I don't know of a specific one on public speaking.) I'll give you my quick framework and then I'll talk about your specific situation.

The nature vs. nurture question is always interesting, and continually evolving with new research. The typical conclusion is that there's an element of both. It's hard to "tease out" which one is causing the anxiety because of these variables:

  1. When we see anxiety running in families, it could be caused by genetics (nature) or could be caused by the fact that the family is in the same environment (nurture). For example with nurture, we know that anxiety can be modeled by parents and siblings, and can be one cause of anxiety. Overly protective parents or parents who overly teach their kids that the world is a dangerous place can be another factor. And there can be lots of other environmental/nurture factors.

  2. One of the most interesting developments in brain science over the last few decades has been the concept of neuroplasticity. Your brain and your biology can actually change based on what you're experiencing (through real-life experiences or your imagination). So you can actually change, rewire and shape your brain. We know that doing specific brain exercises can change the size of certain areas of your brain. For example, a larger amygdala (central for controlling emotions like anxiety) correlates with higher levels of anxiety. MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the amygdala shrinks. So it's interesting that you can start off with a certain genetic makeup, but experiences, thoughts and behaviors can change it. Not only can the size of certain areas of your brain change, but the connections (re-wiring) between sections can change (for example, connections from the amygdala to brain areas responsible for perception). Thoughts and experiences also change your brain chemistry.

OK, so back to your situation! We don't have a satisfying answer because scientific research still has a long way to go before we can understand all the variables and how they affect individual differences in families. We don't know exactly why your parents and siblings are more pre-disposed to public speaking anxiety than you, but we can assume that it's a mix of nature and nurture variables. It's interesting that I have the same issue in my family, and I still don't know the answer with the specificity that I'd like! The good news, is that we can shape both our genetic makeup and environment and change ourselves.

neekz0r2 karma

I'm curious as to what the correlation (if any) between introverted personalities and public speaking?

For my part, I'm a pretty big introvert. But I worked hard to develop my public speaking skills (toastmasters) and such. Now people don't believe me when I tell them I'm introverted.

It should be noted that I never felt fear of public speaking, it was just something I wasn't particularly good at.

mindful22 karma

Great question. And congratulations on going to Toastmasters. That's a great place to (1) build speaking skills as you did in your case, and (2) desensitize your nervous system if you have anxiety. Note that if you have a public speaking phobia (a higher level of anxiety), you may want to try one of the "labs" that I mention at the bottom of this page. The labs led by anxiety experts are focused on making sure that you're practicing the right way so you can really overcome the anxiety.

Using the Myers-Briggs definition, being an introvert means that you tend to "re-charge your batteries" by being alone rather than with people (being with people too much depletes your energy). Extroverts tend to recharge their batteries and get energy mostly by being with people. Introversion is different from being shy (shy = being reserved or having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people).

So with this definition, there is no correlation between introversion and public speaking anxiety. In fact, there's an article I read recently about President Obama possibly being an introvert. There certainly are lots of introverts who are professional public speakers. You can actually have some shy and/or introverted qualities and be a good public speaker (in the "low fear" group where you experience some fear but you can manage it).

y2ketchup2 karma

Hi Cheryl, Public speaking is a big part of my job. My colleagues consider me a good speaker and I'm often asked to present to colleagues and partners. Do you have any idea for career opportunities or side gigs where I can use my speaking skills more often?

mindful21 karma

That's great! What do you usually speak about? Or are you an expert in some field or area?

If you have expertise in an area, you may want to start by developing an earned reputation by (1) writing a weekly blog, (2) publishing on ebook on Amazon, (3) contributing to online groups and forums, and (4) building your social media followers on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. If you've already got some readership or reputation, you'll want to list yourself with speaker's bureaus, and let your network know that you're interested in speaking gigs. If you belong to an association or attend a specific conference, you may want to let them know that you're available to speak.

You could also post your profile on, a marketplace for freelancers. Here's an example.

Does anyone else have other ideas?

liamquane2 karma

Do you have any advice for giving presentations/ pitching?

mindful21 karma

Wow, that's a really broad topic and there is so much written on this.

When you say presentations, do you mean specifically like PowerPoint slides or pitching like getting funding for a business idea?

One of the best places to hear great presentations is You may want to check out Garr Reynolds and his books. Another great resource for presentations is Nancy Duarte. Also Seth Godin.

For pitching (selling your ideas or getting funding) I would read Oren Klaff's book called Pitch Anything.

Let me know if that was what you were looking for. Hopefully others will have more ideas!

Mistarwayne2 karma

Hi. A real fan of public speaking here. Whether it be Politics, a lead singer in concert, a civil rally, whatever, I admire someone who can engage a crowd.

My question is: do you share a similar opinion that engaging-public speakers are becoming tougher & tougher to find?

It feels like a dying art and it makes me sad.

mindful21 karma

That's really interesting. I haven't had that impression myself. I think it's because I watch a lot of TED talks at I find that many of the speakers there are setting new standards and pushing new boundaries for speaking and visuals. I also love the TEDx events in many local areas around the world. I also have found modern politicians who really engage a crowd.

Does anyone else have impressions on this?

98thRedBalloon2 karma

Do you have any tips for managing anxiety about public speaking where the audience cannot speak back - for example, a webinar, where all participants besides the presenter are muted?

mindful21 karma

There's a great article on the art of the webinar that has lots of good tips for webinar presenters.

Does the situation create some anxiety because you're not getting feedback from the audience? You have no idea if they're bored or playing Pokemon Go. That silence can be off-putting (hearing crickets).

The nice thing about webinars is that you can ask questions and get feedback. For example, you can ask a question and have the audience raise their hand if they agree (they can click a button to raise and lower their hand). You can also conduct a poll and get audience interaction and feedback that way. I always like to start with a poll or a question to get the audience engaged, and intersperse these throughout the webinar. Also, your audience can use the chat window to ask questions at anytime throughout the presentation (I usually have a moderator stop me with questions at appropriate times). Ideally, you'll get your audience's attention from the start and keep them engaged throughout the presentation with some interactive activities.

It's also good to imagine that you're talking to real individuals who are interested in what you're saying. Speak right into the camera (the equivalent of eye contact), and focus on getting your message across clearly.

Does anyone have other ideas?

PatrickBecerra1 karma

Hello Cheryl!

When I was younger, up until about the time I was 18 or so, I was terrified of public speaking. The idea of reading a speech, being in a play, or otherwise addressing a group of people was paralyzing. After I graduated high school I started playing guitar and singing, and I fell in love with performing music. Now I'm more comfortable having the attention of a group of people than I am quietly existing, even if I'm not performing anything.

What happened to me?

mindful22 karma

Thanks, this is really interesting and a great story.

My theory is that two things happened: you fell in love and you desensitized your fear with repetition.

One key way to overcome anxiety is to become passionate about what you want to share with the world. In your case this was music. In public speaking, if you're excited about communicating an important message, you tend to focus on your message rather than your fear. You're motivated to communicate clearly so people really get your message. There's great joy in sharing a message with others and having them "get it." There's great joy in sharing music with others and seeing the audience's enjoyment.

The other key to overcoming anxiety is desensitization. Your nervous system gets de-sensitized when you experience safety over time in a particular situation. So your nervous system is going to naturally get de-sensitized when you repeatedly go into a performing situation with a sense of safety ("nothing horrible happened last time I did this").

Let me know if this sounds accurate in your situation. And if you have other ideas or theories that might explain this.

kindiana1 karma

Not really public speaking, but I can argue with anyone in the world except my wife and she's leaving me for it. It's almost like I have selected mutism when she gets mad and I literally cannot say a word. Any advice?

mindful21 karma

When this happens, and you can't say a word, is it because you're fuming, feeling helpless or what are you feeling at that point?

J-Cast1 karma

I can play music in front of around 1800 people and have no problem at all. But talk in front of 30 ..oh my god.. Could this just be a comfort thing? Or could it be that in a group situation its easier to be comfortable because I am not the sole center of attention. I've never cared when people watched me play sports either (college rowing).

mindful21 karma

It sounds like you're more comfortable when you're performing with others than when you're performing alone and you're the sole center of attention. When you're alone, you get more scrutiny because all eyes are on you, and this can feel very uncomfortable.

Because social anxiety and public speaking anxiety are caused by a fear of scrutiny or negative judgement, here's an exercise you can do to increase your tolerance of scrutiny. I want to encourage you to prove to your brain that little mistakes and imperfections don’t matter. So find opportunities every day or every week to draw attention to yourself in a group of people.

For example, you may want to:

• Shout to a friend across a crowded mall

• Sing or hum while shopping

• Come in late and walk to the front of a crowded room

• Button your shirt the wrong way and go out in public

• Wear shoes that don’t match in public

• Try karaoke with a small group of good friends

• Add to this list!

J-Cast1 karma

Wow haha ready those made me think ..."oh crap..." But im gonna challenge myself and try this. I want to go into the medical field so ill need to be super comfortable around people. Thanks!

mindful21 karma

LOL! You've got a great attitude going for it!

tennis_face1 karma

I have physiological responses that are seemingly out of my control. My heart beats quickly, I'm out of breath, and (in one instance) I pass out. These responses have prevented me from doing ANY sort of public/group speaking. It's not just fear and anxiety but the awful physical symptoms that I can't control. What can I do about this?

mindful21 karma

In what situations do you have these physiological responses that feel out of control? Only public speaking or other situations?

aerodynamicaubergine1 karma


I stammer, and was wondering if you'd encountered any public speakers and how they've dealt/managed it while still being an effective speaker?

mindful21 karma


I had a colleague who stammered. He became a good friend. He was a rising star at work and had the ear many of the top executives at this Fortune 50 company. His ambition was to get into politics. Unfortunately, I lost touch with him or I'd ask him to join this thread. Just from my observation, I would say he dealt with it by accepting it, speaking with a stammer in meetings and conferences, not worrying about what people thought (or maybe worrying but not letting it stop him), and focusing on getting his message across as clearly as he could. It was never easy for him, but he was determined to look beyond it and be heard. I always admired his determination to work everyday to focus on achieving his goals.

What are your thoughts about dealing with and managing stammering?

You've probably seen these incredibly inspiring and emotional videos. We're always deeply touched and rooting for the person who had to overcome difficult obstacles to achieve their goals.

aerodynamicaubergine1 karma


Thanks for the reply. Would you happen to have his name? So I could see if he has anything floating about on the internet that might be of value to me.

Ok, fair enough. I just find 'accepting it' is profoundly easier said than done! I've virtually always avoided opportunities to speak in public, I do often go beyond my comfort zone in smaller ways e.g. group exercises or presentations before small - medium groups. But something of that degree was too anxiety-inducing to consider, or be a useful exercise. With managing stammering, I find accepting it has been quite difficult, so I find techniques to become more fluent during the stammer rather than addressing the underlying issues to my fears associated with speaking. It's a journey but every couple of months or so I can look back and think how my speech has generally improved, which is a nice thought.

I've seen a lot of videos on stammering, particularly TED talks, and saw the first one you linked but no the second. Thanks again!

mindful21 karma

Yes, definitely easier said than done. I'll PM his name. I've looked for him on the internet and can't find him. If you find him, please let me know!

I'm glad you've found a way to work on becoming more fluent rather than addressing the fears underlying speaking. You've found a way that has generally helped you improve, which is great.

derek_329991 karma

Have you studied using lopressor or other beta blockers to control anxiety?

It's pretty phenomenal, imo.

mindful21 karma

See this post.

Vergeter1 karma

Whenever I try public speaking or if I'm put under pressure, even if I'm relatively calm and in control of the situation my hands shake uncontrollably. I just wanted to know, is there's any thing I can do to steady them?

mindful21 karma

Hi, This could be anxiety but also could be other physical issues. Just to rule out other physical issues, have you talked with a doctor about this? Let me know your thoughts on other potential causes.

k-swee1 karma

Your cheat sheet answers a lot of the questions I had, so thanks for that! Something not answered by it is: what was your reason or motivation for devoting your career to the studies of the different types of anxiety?

mindful23 karma

Great question. I developed a phobia of public speaking in late high school (when I went to a boarding school in Germany and felt like an outsider there). Then it took me 6 years to get through college because I kept dropping classes that required a presentation or lots of class discussion. It's painful and really affects your career and quality of life. So it was motivated by my personal interest in why anxiety like that starts and how to overcome it.

ReliableSource1 karma

I do improv and stand up comedy. I have no problem getting onstage and revealing intimate details about myself and/or acting like an idiot for the entertainment of others. Yet, when it comes to my birthday, I hate being the center of attention and having people sing to me. Why could that be?

mindful21 karma

That is so interesting to me!

Have you had any negative experiences while being in the spotlight with a smaller group of people? (A negative past experience could include shame, feeling like you have pressure to be someone other than who you are, feeling like you don't fit in, etc.)

I assume you get lots of positive social karma doing stand-up. That's awesome! Where do you stand-up?

ReliableSource1 karma

Haha, lots of positive social karma, yes. It's done wonders for my social life. I perform mostly in South Florida, but will occasionally travel to perform if the opportunity presents itself.

I can't recall any negative experiences with smaller groups. My hypothesis is that I feel like attention from my performances is earned, because I've put work into the craft of writing and performing. Birthdays, on the other hand, feel to me like they're just a random celebration for my having stayed alive for another year.

mindful21 karma

LOL, that makes total sense! It's like all this big hoopla for aging.

Palatron1 karma

Good morning Dr. Matthews, I have been fortunate in my career in the military to speak with groups ranging from 100 or less, to over 1,000. I did this working for some extremely renowned research psychologists and psychiatrists.

Do you feel that women in particular have more trouble getting audience buy-in?

I as a male I never got difficult hecklers, but some of our females did in male dominated circles. They could be an expert in our material, but it seemed they were the ones that had the most difficulty getting what Cheryl Sandberg describes as a seat at the table.

Also, do you have any strategies for how to deal with these type of people?

mindful21 karma

Oh Wow, that's great. Lots of large audience public speaking...and working with renowned psychologists and psychiatrists.

I've worked as a consultant in the military and other male dominated organizations and I'm familiar with this mindset! It's tough! I like Cheryl Sandberg's insights (I haven't read her book Lean In yet, but heard an interview).

I've seen different methods work in terms of getting audience buy-in. Communicating credentials up-front makes a difference (why you're an expert). I've found the military listens pretty well to rank and credentials! Also, preparing ahead of time by sampling a few audience members and asking what questions or objections they have. Then creating a presentation that pre-empts those objections. I've found those two things really work for me.

In terms of strategies to deal with these types of people...I read a good book recently called Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff that has lots of strategies for dealing with tough people like this and getting audience buy-in. It's not about women trying to get a seat at the table exactly, but it gives strategies for anyone facing a difficult audience.

Casserlyshane1 karma

what percentage of people would you say suffer from anxiety while public speaking? and where does this anxiety come from?

mindful22 karma

That's a really interesting question because articles you read on the internet tend to overestimate the number.

Many articles talk about the fact that people fear public speaking more than death. You hear Seinfeld's quote a lot: (something like) most people would rather be in the casket at funeral than do the eulogy. This makes it sound like most people are terrified of public speaking.

Based on a recent study, 28.4% of the US population is either afraid or very afraid of public speaking. I've seen other Gallup Polls in the 40-45% range.

The real answer is that (1) everyone has at least some fear of public speaking, and (2) people have different levels of fear. In fact, if you look at the cheat sheet, you'll see fear ranging from low, medium and high.

Based on the studies, I estimate that 60-70% are in the "low fear" group. This means that they have some fear, but the fear symptoms are mild enough so the fear doesn't get in the way of their performance. They can get through their speech or presentation with manageable fear.

Approximately, 30-40% are in the "medium-to-high" fear group. This group has a lot more fear, and it gets in the way of their performance. It may get in the way so much that they start to avoid all public speaking. That can stop them from graduating or advancing their career.

The anxiety comes from a fear of negative judgement or scrutiny. The more you fear negative judgement, the more you'll fear public speaking and many social situations.

Casserlyshane1 karma

Thanks for the response! is the 60-70% and 30-40% of the 28.4% of people that are afraid of public speaking? I never imagined the percentage of people fearing public speaking becasue of the people I see in college, but as you said articles tend to overestimate the number.

mindful21 karma

Thanks for clarifying! I estimate approximately 60-70% of the entire US population is in the low fear group and 30-40% of the US population is in the medium-to-high fear group.

For those in other countries, I haven't found any studies for other countries. The only studies I've found cover the US population.

fairlyuniq1 karma


mindful21 karma

See this post. Let me know if you have more questions!

Skeeders1 karma

Have you heard of the drug Propranolol and its possibility of use to control anxiety for public speaking?

mindful22 karma

I see two questions on beta-blockers and Propranolol. I'm not a medical doctor (MD) so this is not medical advice :) But I'll give you my personal opinion.

Beta-blockers (Propranolol/Inderal being one of them) can be very helpful for public speaking especially if you're in the medium-to-high fear group (as explained here). The reason is that your brain has started to interpret the symptoms themselves as a threat, which floods your body with more adrenaline, which you interpret as a threat, which floods your body with more adrenaline...and so on. Fear can escalate into panic very quickly. Beta-blockers actually dampen the symptoms (slow your heart rate), so they can help you work your way out of the self-perpetuating cycle of fear.

They aren't a magic bullet. You can take beta-blockers and still get into an escalating cycle of fear if you keep telling yourself something horrible is going to happen. So it's important to work on changing your self-talk. When you change your self-talk and take a beta-blocker, it can help.

One of the reasons it's better not to use meds if you can avoid it is: you may start attributing your success to the meds and not to yourself which can get in the way of your self-confidence and self-improvement. But if a beta-blocker helps, use it. Beta-blockers are more benign (and are used only as needed ~30 minutes before a presentation) compared to SSRIs which take several weeks to take effect and can have a lot more side-effects.

Talk to your doctor. Be aware of side effects with all meds. Beta-blockers reduce your blood pressure. If you already have low blood-pressure, tell your doctor.

I recommend using it first in a "laboratory" setting (see cheat sheet #5) where you're practicing and learning how to manage fear in a group with others who share your fear.

andylefunk1 karma

Hi Cheryl. I've did policy debate and forensics in high school, and have continued to do improv in college and work in a field that is rigorous in public speaking, and while I typically feel confident in my public speaking abilities to more than one person, one-on-one (as in, job interview, business negotiation, etc.) speaking is challenging for me. How can I adapt my strategies from paneled interview to small interviews?

mindful22 karma

Wow, that's great that you've done rigorous public speaking, improv, debate, and forensics!

Do you think it's more a matter of practicing these skills and getting better at it? So once you feel confident with the skills of job interviewing or negotiation, you'll feel pretty confident? Or when you think back on one-on-one situations, is there a particular thing that you can point to that makes you uncomfortable? For example, is eye contact uncomfortable?

If it's more a matter of skill-acquisition and practice, I would recommend getting training in those areas. There are lots of options for this, and I'll post some a little later. If you have the skills and it's more a matter of social discomfort, I would recommend mock interview practice. I'll post some options for this and other options tomorrow.

McFiend1 karma

Why, in your opinion, is it so much easier for me to speak publicly when i try to make and hold eye contact with one person instead of distributing my focus around the room? I always catch my self speaking to one or two people as opposed to the group as a whole. what can i do to change this?

mindful21 karma

Do you think that you're holding eye contact with one person out of habit or to relieve some anxiety? In other words, would you become much more nervous if you distributed your focus around the room? Also, are you holding eye contact with a friendly person in the audience as a relaxation technique?

It's interesting that you ask this because I used to do this as well. I'm not exactly sure why I did it :) Two things stopped me from doing it. One, I was in a class learning how to be a trainer. The instructor told me that I looked at one side of the room and not the other. So I became aware of being "un-inclusive." Two, I was a student in a class where the professor kept looking at only a few students, and I realized that I felt left out! (It feels similar when you're with two other people at a table, and the other two people only look at each other and not at you). I then committed to include the entire audience with my eye contact.

So if it's just out of habit, you might want to consciously think about including the entire audience. Send yourself a reminder before you talk.

If it's due to anxiety, and if it makes it possible for you to speak in public, then I would continue doing it. If it's an anxiety management technique that works for you, and trying to change it would have negative consequences, then keep using it. When you put things into perspective, eye contact with the entire audience is good to have, but its not a make-or-break. You can still be a happy person and accomplish your goals without it.

thewireistaken1 karma


mindful22 karma

Yes, great question. See this post for a list of "common thought patterns" that can get in our way. The fear center in our brain is actually programmed to think negatively, and to be on the alert for any possible dangers. So these common thought patterns are normal, but they also create problems for us. So we have to work at coming up with new thoughts that are more realistic and constructive.

For example, studies show that people with public speaking fear/phobia tend to think of social situations as more competitive or hostile than they really are. Research shows that in most cases people are often thinking neutral or positive things, and people are much more supportive than you might think.

The best way to counter your "worst thoughts" is to come up with a new script. Repeat the script frequently to yourself.

Become aware of thoughts like:

• I know what people are thinking, and they don’t like me

• They think I’m an idiot or weird

What more realistic and truthful things could you tell yourself instead? You may want to say to yourself:

• I don’t know what other people are thinking

• The truth is, most situations aren't as competitive or hostile as I might think. Most people are supportive and friendly.

miss-tetris1 karma

Are those that have anxiety related to public speaking be a victim of selective mutism, even though they are comfortable speaking in other environments?

mindful21 karma

Interesting question. I would say that everyone with selective mutism has anxiety speaking in certain public situations. But not everyone who has public speaking anxiety has selective mutism.