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What are the Causes of Public Speaking Anxiety?



As one of the UK’s leading acting coaches, I’ve worked with actors who suffer from stage fright and anxiety for many years – my public speaking clients are no different. Public speaking can be a daunting task for even the most experienced individuals. For some, the fear and anxiety it produces can become intense and debilitating.


Several different factors can contribute to public speaking anxiety. For some people, it may be due to a previous bad experience or a fear of being judged by others. In some cases, it may be related to an underlying condition such as social anxiety disorder or performance anxiety.


Public speaking anxiety is one of the most common phobias in the world. If you are struggling with public speaking anxiety, you are not alone. This blog post will discuss the causes of public speaking anxiety and how you can overcome it!


Although public speaking anxiety affects people of all ages and backgrounds and makes even the simplest task seem impossible. The root causes of this problem are numerous.


But, Why Do We Have Speech Anxiety?

Most people will experience some form of anxiety at some point. It is a normal emotion that helps us deal with potentially dangerous or threatening situations. According to an estimate from 2016, this affects 15-30% of the general population.


But for some people, the anxiety does not go away, and it can worsen over time. It is when it becomes a problem and can start to interfere with your life.


Many different factors can contribute to public speaking anxiety. It might be a combination of things, or it could be just one thing. Some of the most common causes include:


1. Fear Of Failure:

One of the main reasons people experience public speaking anxiety is a fear of failure. The worry of not being good enough or messing up in front of others can be crippling.

This fear can be amplified if you have experienced negative consequences from public speaking in the past, such as being laughed at or ridiculed. If you’re constantly worried about failing, your anxiety will likely increase, making it even harder to deliver a successful speech.


To overcome this fear, it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and that there is no such thing as a perfect speech. It’s also helpful to focus on the positive aspects of public speaking, such as the opportunity to share your knowledge and ideas with others. If you can keep your fear of failure in perspective, it will be easier to manage your anxiety and deliver a great speech.


2. Self-Consciousness In Public:

Another common cause of public speaking anxiety is self-consciousness. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as feeling like you are being judged by others, worrying about what other people think of you, or feeling that you are not prepared.


Your anxiety will likely increase if you’re constantly focused on how you look or sound in front of others.


3. Fear Of Embarrassment:

Another common cause of public speaking anxiety is the fear of embarrassing yourself. It can happen if you’re worried about saying something that is incorrect or that will make you look bad in front of others.


If you do not prepare well for your speech, you can feel this fear. Whenever you fear embarrassing yourself, it is essential to remember that everyone makes mistakes and that none of us are perfect.


Breathe, it’s only a presentation!


4. A Family History Of Anxiety :

Some people may be more prone to public speaking anxiety because of a family history of anxiety. If you have relatives suffering from anxiety or other mental health disorders, you may be more likely to experience public speaking anxiety.


Watch this video to learn more about the connection between anxiety and family history.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome your fear. You can learn to manage your anxiety and give great speeches with the proper treatment and support.


5. Fear Of Being Judged By Others:

Another common cause of public speaking anxiety is the fear of being judged by others. It can happen if you’re worried about what other people will think of you after your speech.

This fear can be extreme if you’re not well-prepared for your speech or if you’re speaking to a group of people who are unfamiliar to you. If you’re afraid of being judged by others, it’s important to remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.


6. Lack Of Skills:

One of the main reasons people experience public speaking anxiety is because they lack the skills necessary to deliver a great speech. It can include not knowing how to structure a speech, not having enough content, or being nervous about speaking in front of others.

If you don’t have the skills to deliver a great speech, it’s only natural that you would be anxious about doing so.


7. Fear Of Not Knowing What To Say:

A student practises for her public speaking exam in class

Another common cause of public speaking anxiety is the fear of not knowing what to say. It can happen if you’re worried about blanking out or forgetting what you’re supposed to say during your speech.


To combat this, it’s essential to have a well-prepared speech outline so that you can refer back to it if you need to.


8. High Intake Of Caffeine:

Caffeine is a common trigger for anxiety. If you’re prone to public speaking anxiety, limiting your caffeine intake before a speech is essential. It includes coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. Caffeine can worsen anxiety by causing physical symptoms such as increased heart rate and sweating. If you need to drink caffeine, it’s best to do so early in the day so that it doesn’t affect your sleep.


These are just some of the most common causes of public speaking anxiety. There is no reason to feel alone if you are experiencing public speaking anxiety. A lot of people feel the same way.


Fortunately, plenty of resources are available to help you improve your public speaking skills. Books, online courses, and even coaching programs can help you become a better speaker. If you’re serious about overcoming your public speaking anxiety, invest in some quality resources to help you improve your skills.


Mark Westbrook

Public Speaking Coach