Gary Genard's

Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

10 Causes of Speech Anxiety that Create Fear of Public Speaking

10 causes of speech anxiety that create fear of public speaking.

Do you suffer from fear of public speaking? Here are 10 causes of speech anxiety and powerful tips about how to speak with confidence!

Want an attention-grabber the next time you give a speech? How about this: speech anxiety ranks higher than death as the fear people mention most often!

How's that for a widespread form of social anxiety?

Speech anxiety limiting your career? Learn how to command the stage with my book Fearless Speaking, named One of 100 Best Confidence Books Of All Time. On Amazon.

Dr. Gary Genard's book, Fearless Speaking, named One of the 100 Best Confidence Books Of All Time.

The Prevalence of Fear of Public Speaking

To be fair:  heights, insects, and deep water also rank above death in the survey that's still cited above any other. It's from The Book of Lists, which in 1977 reproduced a 1973 survey by Bruskin Associates.* Here's the full ranking of the "14 worst human fears": 1. Speaking before a group 2. Heights 3. Insects and Bugs 4. Financial Problems 5. Deep Water. 6. Sickness 7. Death 8. Flying 9.Loneliness 10. Dogs 11. Driving in a Car 12. Darkness 13. Elevators. 14. Escalators.

To bring that up to date to our 21st century, a recent post from a “knowledge, awareness, and self-improvement” site finds fear of public speaking occupying the #3 slot. In this list, a dread of loneliness and death edge out our social phobia. But fear of speaking reliably remains as one of our great waking nightmares.[1] 

So if you fear speaking in public more than riding an escalator, you're certainly not alone. Speech jitters still ranks high the world over on lists of things people would rather not do. But what specifically causes this type of social anxiety?

Need to relax before speaking? Discover how in my essential cheat sheet for speakers"How to Calm Your Nerves before Speaking." It works in only 5 minutes!

How to Overcome Stage Fright and Speech Anxiety

As the founder and president of The Genard Method in Boston, I've spent the past 18 years helping professionals eliminate their stage fright through our Fearless Speaking Program. In the video below, I explain this powerful coaching course for overcoming fear of speaking: 


Looking for ways to conquer stage fright? You'll find 50 of them in my book Fearless Speaking. Eliminate your fear in as little as 12 days! Download a free chapter here. 

The Top 10 Reasons You Have Stage Fright

Here's what you need to know to start your journey to greater confidence and enjoyment of public speaking. These are the ten biggest reasons you have this fear, and my tips on how you can overcome it . . . and basically get your life back!

  1. Self-consciousness in front of large groups. This is the most frequently named reason for performance anxiety. Speech coaches often hear: "I'm fine talking to small groups, but when it's a large audience I get really anxious." Two strategies will help: (1) Remember that the people in a big audience are the same ones you talk to individually, and (2) Concentrate on just talking to them, not "presenting". You'll be at your best.
  2. Fear of appearing nervous. Do you fear that you'll look fearful? Many speakers do. It's easy, then, to believe that if the audience sees those nerves, they'll think you don't know your topic. But of course the two aren't linked. When you see that a speaker is nervous, don't you sympathize, rather than making a judgment on that person's professionalism? If anything, your audience will extend you sympathy not resistance.
  3. Concern that others are judging you. The tough-love message here is that people really don't care about you. They're in the audience to get something out of your lecture, presentation, or speech. They want their time to be well spent. Watching a speaker fail is embarrassing for everyone. So the audience is actually pulling for you!
  4.  Past failures. Public speaking anxiety is often learned behavior. That is, at some point in the past you failed, and the seed of self-doubt was planted. But if you know your stuff and are prepared this time, there's no reason for things to go south like they did in the long ago. Not unless you insist that will happen, and believe it. Plan to succeed instead.
  5.  Poor or insufficient preparation. See #4 above. If you haven't done your homework (including knowing your audience), there's no reason you should succeed. Blame nobody but yourself. Nothing undermines public speaking confidence like being unprepared. But nothing gives you as much confidence as being ready. Your choice.

Do you know how to hook your audience's attention? Get the guide to great openings! Grab listeners as soon as you start speaking with my e-book "How to Start a Speech." 

  1.  Narcissism. This is the toughest love message I give to clients with stage fright. Indulging in extreme self-consciousness while speaking is narcissistic. How can you influence others if you're totally wrapped up in yourself? You can't. So turn that bright spotlight around and "illuminate" your listeners. You don't matter. They do.
  2.  Dissatisfaction with your abilities. Okay, this is a legitimate concern. But it's also one of the easiest of my Top 10 causes to remedy. You should feel dissatisfied if your speaking skills are below par. But dissatisfaction can be an excellent spur. Get the speech training you've been thinking about. Just knowing you have first-rate skills can provide you with a truckload of confidence. It's also much more likely to make you eager to speak.
  3.  Discomfort with your own body. Why is it that we're all at ease physically with friends, but self-conscious and awkward in front of an audience? If that's you, read the tip above about having a conversation with listeners. That should help you relax into your body. Also, pay attention to how you stand, sit, gesture, and move when you're in a comfortable environment. Then recreate that natural movement with larger audiences. Here are 5 secrets of powerful body language for effective public speaking
  4.  Poor breathing habits. Unless you've been trained as an actor or singer, you're probably  unaware of how to breathe for speech. Public speaking requires more air than "vegetative breathing." Also, you need to control your exhalation to sustain sound through the end of your idea. Diaphragmatic breathing is the way to do all of this. It's also great for calming your galloping heart. 
  5.  Comparing yourself to others. Don't do it! Your job is never to be an "excellent" speaker. It's to be interesting when you discuss your topic or passion. That's it. The really good news is that no one in the entire universe can do that as well as you, because you're the person to tell us about it. Truly, you're the one we came to hear. 
[1] Anna LeMind, “Top 10 Most Common Human Fears and Phobias.” Accessed April 27, 2019.
Do you read mysteries or supernatural suspense? If you do, you'll love Dr. William Scarlet, Scotland Yard police surgeon and psychic. Read Book #1 in the thriller series, Red Season!

Red Season, Book #1 in the Dr. William Scarlet Mysteries, by Gary Genard.

You should follow me on Twitter here.

 Cropped headshot for Speak for Leadership back cover -- 8.30.21
Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking and overcoming speaking fear. His company, The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. He was named for nine consecutive years as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals, and also named as One of America's Top 5 Speech Coaches. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. His latest book is Speak for Leadership: An Executive Speech Coach's Secrets for Developing Leadership Presence. Contact Gary here. 

Tags: public speaking anxiety,stage fright,conquer your fear of public speaking,fear of public speaking,overcoming fear of public speaking,how to give a speech,eliminate stage fright,top 10 causes of speech anxiety,conquer stage fright,The Genard Method,Dr. Gary Genard,fearless speaking,fearless presentations,how to overcome fear of public speaking,how to banish speech anxiety,eliminate fear of public speaking,overcoming nervousness,overcome stage fright,how to conquer public speaking fear,eliminating fear of public speaking,speak for leadership

Subscribe to the blog

Follow Gary Genard