As Jerry Seinfeld once put it “To the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
The fear of public speaking glossophobia, is said to affect 75% of Americans, according to Forbes. This makes it the second most common phobia behind arachnophobia, the fear of spiders.
“Probably at last 80% of [the speech students] are terrified of talking at first,” English and speech teacher Melissa Lewis said.
The fear of speaking in front of large crowds is caused by a fear of public humiliation, according to psychologist Matthew Weiser of Rutgers University.
“The fear of messing up or not getting a positive reaction from the crowd always makes me nervous,” sophomore speech student Carion Barker said.
When a speaker has anxiety about what they are going to say it affects the quality of their presentation. The most common symptoms of this are dry mouth, sweaty palms, and talking at a fast pace, according to Thomas Gilbert of the Forbes Business Association.
“I would say I notice a lot of fidgeting and voice fluctuation,” Lewis said. “Some will speak super, super quiet or ridiculously fast.”
Since it is an issue many people will still have to confront in their adult life, it is an important skill to master. It can even affect job applications, according to Lewis.
“Some kids say it’s not important because of what they want to do in the future,” Lewis said. “Public speaking affects a lot of different aspects, and learning how to communicate well is a skill many of these kids don’t have yet.”
Public speaking is an exceptionally important skill for anyone going into a career in communications, education, marketing, or business, according to the College Board.
“Teaching this class definitely makes me brush up on my own skills,” Lewis said. “It makes me be more creative than teachers who are used to being in lecture mode.”
Teachers are required to have their students incorporate public speaking into their classes according to the Indiana Common Core standards.
“I try to incorporate public speaking into all of my classes,” Lewis said. “All my students get a lot of experience with it.”
Lewis said one easy way to improve this skill is to practice the topic and become an expert on it before sharing it in front of others.
“Practicing your topic is the key to public speaking,” Lewis said. “For kids that are terrified the more you practice the better you become.”
Another simple tip is to engage with your audience. When you make eye contact or gesture to your audience they find it more personal and interesting according to psychologist Daniel Kopter of University of Michigan.
“When speaking to anyone is to try and get a point across,” Lewis said.”If you don’t engage them right and keep them engaged they aren’t going to receive that message.”
Perhaps the most important way to gain public speaking talent is to let your personality shine throug, including your thoughts and emotions into a presentation makes it seem like you have an interest in your own topic.
“If you look like a robot up there your audience will zone out,” Lewis said. “It’s a way to get them engaged when you show them your personality.”
Because of its importance, Lewis encourages any student who is interested to take her speech class.
“Students learn how to have an intelligent conversation not just presenting,” Lewis said.