According to recent studies, over 40% of Americans say that they have a fear of public speaking. In fact, the only fear more common was, unsurprisingly, snakes (a severe fear of snakes is called ophidiophobia or ophiophobia). A fear of public speaking, clinically called Glossophobia, was self-reported to be experienced by 37% of men and 44% of women who completed a recent Gallup poll .
So what does this tell us about nervousness experienced before giving a presentation to an audience, besides “you are not alone”?
In this article we are going to investigate why we experience presentation anxiety and glossophobia in the first place, and then figure out how to overcome these anxieties you may be having about an upcoming presentation or public speech, so that you can shine when it’s time for you to present!
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Why do I experience nerves before a presentation, or speech anxiety?
Nerves before a presentation, speech anxiety and glossophobia (clinical term for ‘fear of public speaking’, described in more detail below) are caused by a stress response in our body, known as the “fight or flight” response.
This fight-or-flight response causes the body to produce more of a hormone called epinephrine — also known as/called adrenaline — which further causes physiological changes such as an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, and a tensing of the muscles .
The fight-or-flight response is originally a survival mechanism in the body; built to respond to stressful, life-threatening situations in which we either need to fight for our lives, or escape.
This response was a necessary bodily reaction when the world was full of daily, inherent, life-threatening risks (think emerging from a bush and unexpectedly staring down a predator like a tiger). Over time, as life-threatening situations & risks like this have become less common, the fight-or-flight response evolved to be triggered by other stressful situations, including giving a presentation in front of an audience.
The reason why some people experience the fight-or-flight response in this very specific situation is not always clear. There are a number of reasons someone may suffer from nerves before a presentation or speech anxiety.
It may be biological. One particular study found that mice that show less fear and anxiety produce offspring with lower levels of anxiety . Additional studies indicate that there may be a link between social anxiety disorders (such as glossophobia) and genetics , as higher rates of social anxiety disorders are reported in relatives of people who suffer from these conditions.
The cause of presentation nerves & speech anxiety may also be psychological. Our past experiences and environmental factors may result in a person developing public speaking anxiety. Some psychological causes may include :
- Negative self-talk
- Fear of failure
- Overplaying the pressure of the occasion
- Fear of embarrassment or being judged
- Lack of experience
While there’s no test that can tell you for sure, understanding the inherent cause of the nerves you feel before a presentation can help you find the right strategy to overcome it.
Glossophobia is a type of anxiety disorder, referring to a strong fear (or phobia) of public speaking . If you have ever suffered from glossophobia, then you may have experienced a quick onset of physical symptoms when faced with speaking or presenting in front of an audience – even an audience of just a few people.
Glossophobia is categorized as a social phobia, with several similarities to the condition of stage fright. Although the symptoms of glossophobia and stage fright do overlap, many who suffer from glossophobia find that other social situations, like meeting new people, or performing tasks in front of a crowd, can be handled with relative ease. Yet when it comes time to speak in front of a group of people, those same people experience a, sometimes overwhelming, stress response .
How Many People Suffer from Speech or Presentation Anxiety?
The exact number of people who experience speech or presentation anxiety is hard to pin down exactly as it varies from source to source. But the consensus is that ‘fear of public speaking’ and the associated anxiety is an extremely common affliction.
One popular survey found that a fear of public speaking affect’s nearly 40% of all Americans, making the phobia the second most common fear behind snakes . Further surveys have found that the reach of public speaking & presentation anxiety is even more extreme, claiming that 75% of people suffer from some form of public speaking anxiety at some point .
The Best Tools and Strategies for Overcoming Presentation Nerves
The famous billionaire investor Warren Buffett was asked in an interview “What habits did you cultivate in your 20s and 30s that you see as the foundation of success?”
Buffett, called the “Oracle of Omaha” in investing circles, is one of the most successful investors of all time and runs the company Berkshire Hathaway, which then itself owns dozens of companies, including insurer Geico, battery maker Duracell and restaurant chain Dairy Queen.
He answered this interview question in a very considered & wise manner :
“You’ve got to be able to communicate in life and it’s enormously important. Schools, to some extent, under emphasize that. If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”
Buffett followed this up in the interview by admitting that he was “terrified of public speaking early in his career”. He decided that to reach his full potential, he had to overcome his fear of it .
A very good argument can be made that if you are experiencing anxiety before a presentation, then you have to overcome your fear of the presentation itself. Easier said than done, right? Well, here are several techniques and tricks to help you overcome your presentation anxiety fears.
We can’t guarantee you the same results as Warren Buffett — this advice alone will not magically make you one of the wealthiest investors in the world, but presentations & public speaking skills have numerous benefits for your life/career, so on to the tips to overcoming your presentation nerves and anxiety.
Practice Practice Practice
Nothing can take the place of practicing and preparing for your presentation when it comes to overcoming your anxiety and fears. The fundamental steps that we recommend start with writing out a script of your key points (but also try not to read from the script word for word) .
The famed keynote speaker and seminar leader Brian Tracy shared one of his best tricks to combat a fear of public speaking in a recent article :
Prepare for your speech so well that you could answer any possible question thrown at you.
This is a good tidbit of advice, you want to be so well prepared for your presentation that if someone throws you a surprise question at the end (or during), you have some form of answer ready to answer them .
This isn’t always possible with all presentation topics, but keeping that thought in the back of your mind will keep you practicing and preparing even when you feel like you’re mostly ready, and that level of dedication and prep is what separates merely good presentations, from great presentations.
Whenever someone asks the PerformZen team how they can get better at giving presentations, we typically offer up this quote by the American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard:
“The only way to learn to speak is to speak and speak, and speak and speak, and speak and speak and speak.”
Breathing Exercises For Calming Presentation Nerves
There is a very simple breathing technique used by Navy Seals called ‘Tactical Breathing’ — and if it’s good enough for elite soldiers operating in extreme conditions, then it’s good enough for you or me trying to calm our nerves before giving a presentation! 
Tactical breathing is a simple yet effective way to deactivate the fight or flight mode. It goes like this: take a deep breath to the count of four, hold your breath for four counts, release your breath again to a four-count, and repeat.
Tactical breathing can deactivate your stress response. It is something you can try immediately before or during your presentation to calm your nerves.
Beta Blockers For Presentations & Speeches
Beta-blockers are a popular prescription medication that are used off-script for public speaking anxiety and performance anxiety. Beta-blockers are also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents. The main function of beta-blockers is to block the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones into the brain/body .
Beta-blockers are typically prescribed for cardiac-related health conditions like high blood pressure, angina (chest pains), irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia), and sometimes migraines . Professional speakers & presenters use beta-blockers because it is also too much adrenaline that is responsible for their anxiety symptoms.
When you’re about to go on stage and/or speak in front of an audience, it is to be expected that you’ll feel some level of stress, and typically an adrenaline rush as a part of that stress response.
When you experience or performance anxiety or extreme nerves before giving a presentation, then the stress response is going too far. You are experiencing a much greater effect of the adrenaline hormone, which causes your heart rate to skyrocket, along with other symptoms of performance anxiety.
Since beta-blockers block the effects of adrenaline, they also prevent you from experiencing the physical symptoms of stage fright. Remaining physically calm has an overall calming effect, which then allows you to get through your presentation .
And this is why a lot of presenters, performers and celebrities use beta-blockers. There are also various beta-blockers available today, but here are some of the most common ones available (and their ingredients).
- Inderal (Propranolol)
- Lopressor (Metoprolol)
- Sectral (Acebutolol)
- Coreg (Carvedilol)
- Tenormin (Atenolol)
- Zebeta (Bisoprolol)
Propranolol is the most commonly sold beta blocker, at least within the United States. Metoprolol is a close second in terms of sales numbers.
Natural supplements that can help calm nerves before presentation
If beta-blockers or other prescription anxiety medications do not sound optimal and you want a natural alternative, then you enter the realm of supplements.
When looking into natural supplements that can help the user calm their nerves before a presentation, and just generally reduce performance anxiety and social anxiety symptoms, there are a few promising options to look at:
One is GABA. Gamma-aminobutyric acid in full, this is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the nervous system. As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it works by slowing the effects of other particles in the brain, particularly those that make us over excited or anxious.
A number of scientific papers show that low GABA plays a significant role in several common anxiety disorders. It’s believed by some scientists that people with anxiety disorders may suffer from a GABA deficiency, and evidence shows that GABA supplementation may help relieve symptoms of these disorders .
GABA is widely available in supplement form. There are also other supplements, most notably L-theanine, which are believed to increase levels of GABA in the brain .
L-theanine is another widely available supplement, and is also present in green, black and oolong teas, as well as some types of mushroom.
There is a lot of research about magnesium that and it’s link to calmness, fighting anxiety and sharper thinking. You may already be somewhat aware of magnesium as a very beneficial nutrient, and a healthy diet consisting of lots of avocados, bananas and spinach will have several good sources of magnesium.
A lesser known benefit of magnesium is its effect on anxiety disorders. Clinical studies have shown there may be a link between magnesium deficiency and pathological anxiety , as well as positive signs for magnesium supplementation as a treatment for stress and anxiety .
So in the run up to your presentation, instead of eating (just) the odd banana or avocado salad; consider supplementing with magnesium in order to help with your anxiety troubles.
Silexan is a branded extract of lavender oil created by Wilmar Schwabe GmbH, a German pharmaceutical company . Silexan is essentially a standardized essential oil of L. angustifolia (lavender) flowers prepared by steam distillation .
Research involving silexan is showing that “uniquely prepared, pharmaceutical quality lavender oil” (potent silexan) can improve symptoms of mild anxiety. In fact, two studies found lavender oil capsules to be just as effective as commonly prescribed benzodiazepine Lorazepam and the antidepressant Paroxetine at fighting anxiety symptoms .
Lavender oil, and therefore silexan, contain linalool, linalyl acetate, caryophyllene, 1,8-cineole (Eucalyptol) and camphor compounds. For anxiety purposes, linalool and linalyl acetate are what give lavender its supposed calming and sedative effects, and silexan pills typically contain 36.8% linalool and 34.2% linalyl acetate .
We have an excellent article on the blog all about Silexan for anxiety, check it out if you’re interested in seeing how lavender, and the famous ‘lavender burps’ that come with it, can help with your anxiety symptoms without harmful side-effects or risk of addiction.
While many performers use beta-blockers or some of the other prescription anxiety medications mentioned above, in order to help with their presentation nerves, perhaps you’re not too excited about becoming dependent on a prescription beta-blocker every time you have to present in front of an audience. Instead of having to get a prescription whenever you run out, you may want to consider a natural alternative to beta-blockers.
A natural alternative to beta-blockers would achieve the same end-result as a beta-blocker (providing relief from symptoms of performance anxiety and nerves) but it would do so by supporting your brain in a way that promotes overall relaxation, calmness, and improved cognitive function. The best natural calm performance supplement available today is PerformZen.
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Performance Anxiety is common before a big event or performance. For some of us, the stakes are extremely high and we have to perform at our absolute best! PerformZen was created for you; the high level performer who wants to stay focused & creative while delivering the best performance of your life, without the crippling anxiety & nerves. 100% natural and with none of the side-effects of beta blockers. Get a $10 discount on PerformZen today:
PerformZen is a natural supplement designed to help performers overcome pre-performance nerves & anxiety, while maintaining their composure and mental focus when they have to deliver a speech or presentation under pressure!
PerformZen works by boosting GABA which, as you can see above, is a neurotransmitter that promotes calmness . It also contains magnesium and vitamin B6, which combine together to improve cognitive performance .
Additionally, PerformZen contains L-theanine, theacrine, and Ginkgo Biloba, which are some of the ingredients mentioned above that promote calmness and provide a boost in clean energy
What’s the Best Way to calm nerves before giving a presentation?
Presenting is a skill. Just like you prepare for any important event in life (think exams, auditions, interviews), you can prepare and practice to be in the right frame of mind when its time to get up in front of an audience and present.
You can train yourself to remain calm under pressure, and be mentally sharp so you can perform at your best level.
Try practice and breathing exercises like tactical breathing to help improve your stress response before a presentation. And finally, if you’re looking for an added cognitive boost, be sure to give PerformZen a try before your next presentation.
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