The word “anxiety” comes from the Latin word “angusta,” which translates to “a narrowing corridor that presses down on one passing through.” Thus, anxiety refers to the concern of not making it through something, like a presentation or meeting. The anxiety that originates from speaking in front of others is known as communication apprehension. This apprehension is both the real-time anxiety associated with actually speaking and the anxiety that comes with just thinking about speaking.
Being anxious about speaking leads to many costly outcomes. Beyond the negatives associated with apprehension, such as embarrassment and inability to focus, speaking anxiety not only causes you to present poorer speeches, but you’re also likely to write poorer speeches too. Second, people who appear nervous are often judged as being deceptive or unprepared because the many behavioral cues associated with nervousness—voiding eye contact, stumbling over words, etc. are also linked to lying or not being ready. Third, being nervous reduces your ability to think clearly, to make effective decisions, and to respond to your audience’s reactions.
All told, speaking anxiety can negatively influence your credibility and your ability to make the impact you want.
With all these possible costs in mind, reducing speaking anxiety is critical. Readily available, easy-to-implement techniques exist that can assist you in becoming a confident, compelling speaker. You can learn to speak up without freaking out!
Click here to assess your public speaking anxiety on this scientifically valid measure.
*Measure is called the Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety (PRPSA) McCroskey, J. C. (1970).
Measures of communication-bound anxiety. Speech Monographs, 37, 269-277.