October 18, 2018 | ° F

Overcoming glossophobia


By Elyse RosenbergStaff WriterYou're in your dorm, sitting at your computer, thinking, "How can I get out of it?"When you first received your public speaking assignment, you felt nervous and uneasy. But now that you're writing a speech that will be delivered to the entire class, you start shaking and feel as if you are going to pass out.You try to make up excuses."Maybe I can say my computer crashed or that I was in a car accident."Although only a small percentage of University students will find themselves in this situation during their college years, public speaking lecturer of 20 years, Jerald Goldstein, said learning how to speak in public is beneficial and that most students will need to do it at some point in their lives."Public speaking is not a general requirement at Rutgers so only a small percentage of students make avail of the public speaking courses offered," Goldstein said. "Those who [take public speaking] have a distinct advantage over their contemporaries who haven't, especially in being better prepared to allay the fears associated with speaking in front of a group.".According to "The Book of Lists," the greatest fear in America is glossophobia - the fear of public speaking. It surpasses the fear of heights and the fear of death. In her book, "Speak Without Fear," speaking coach Ivy Naistadt said nervousness and inhibitions drive this social phobia. "The key to speaking without fear is exposing the core issues behind your stage fright and rooting them out, then developing a solid technique you can count on for creating and delivering your message," Naistadt wrote.A fear of public speaking can derive from dreading the risk of embarrassment, a sense of isolation and the "ghosts of speeches past" - the fear of repeating a previous negative public speaking experience - Goldstein said."In a classroom environment, students fear the consequences of not performing well enough to receive a decent grade," Goldstein said.Naistadt said people are also afraid of being judged negatively and forgetting their material.Shanna Keller - a Douglass College junior and a communications major - said when delivering a speech, she fears forgetting what she wants to say. "I find when I stand up to speak I get nervous," Keller said. "My notes shake if I'm holding them, and I fidget."Goldstein said people act out their nervousness in different ways."Before the speech, students will typically concentrate so hard on being prepared for the pending presentation that they shut out all external stimuli," he said. "They can experience a rapid pulse, sweaty, cold, or shaky hands, uncontrollable shaking, dry mouth, tight throat, adaptive gestures and a sense of dread."However, Goldstein said nervousness can easily be alleviated. "If a speaker moves, even simply by shifting her weight or taking a step or two, much of the adrenaline rush is redirected to this movement," Goldstein said. "These physical symptoms subside or disappear. If a speaker can connect and experience even a modicum of success from the start, the symptoms will subside as well."Goldstein said various techniques could combat public speaking fears. The most common include meditation - which involves breathing rhythmically and relaxing - and having a positive anchor, such as remembering another positive experience you have had while speaking in public.Other techniques include concentrating on the positive aspects of and the reason for the speech at hand and connecting with the audience by smiling, using an anecdote or humor and establishing meaningful eye contact, he said.Goldstein said memorized speeches cause concern, because the speaker can lose his place and become flustered. "Scripted speeches cause the least concern, since the wording has been fine-tuned and speakers allow the script to act as a barrier between the audience and themselves," Goldstein said."In a typical class, [there are] those who have abject fear of speaking in front of a group, those who are absolutely calm and enjoy the experience and those who are a bit reluctant but can readily overcome their fears," Goldstein said.


Elyse Rosenberg

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