Glossophobia and What I Have Learnt From Public Speaking

Chinwe Nlemoha Written by Chinwe Nlemoha · 2 min read >

“Where shall I begin, please your
majesty?” she asked. “Begin at the
beginning,” the king said, very
gravely, “and go on till you come to
the end. Then stop.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

When I hear people describe their glossophobia moments, I remember how I was in that position some years ago.

I am an introvert! Most times, I prefer to keep things to myself, mind my business and move on. Some people contest this, so these days, I see myself as an extroverted introvert.

LBS is the place for breaking introverts. I do not think there is any introvert left in this school- you MUST talk. When I heard we were going to make presentations regularly in LBS, I had to remember one of my first moments and it brought back the cringes I felt that day.

My first public speaking experience ended in tears. I was to address the assembly in my secondary school. That day, I prepared my lines ahead, recited the speech to my family members several times, wore the uniform that I spent extra time ironing that morning, and went to school early.

I was glad I had the opportunity to speak to the school, but I was really nervous and worried I would not sound well.

The time came, I walked to the front of the assembly, delivered my presentation, the students and teachers could not stop clapping. Then they stopped and were looking for the speaker.

Where did the speaker go to?

I went to the back of the hall to cry. I cried not because I forgot my lines or did not sound well, but I felt paralysis and anxiety in my throat and chest. The only way I could gain consciousness of my environment and self was by letting all the emotions out through tears.

I can describe it as a range of feelings from slight nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic. I felt like they saw my weaknesses and I would be laughed at for years to come or had become like a pawn in their hands.

Some of my teachers came to meet me and I could not describe how I felt. It was such a relief to get feedbacks from some students that told me what they learnt from the presentation later. I thought nobody was listening. I thought they were just staring.

That day I learnt!

What did I learn?

Oh! I have not told you what glossophobia is. When my teachers found me, one of them said “Chinwe, you have glossophobia too? I was like glo what? Glossary, you mean?

The first thing I learnt about public speaking is there is something called the fear of public speaking- glossophobia.

Then she told me that when they heard I was going to speak that day, the teachers were waiting to hear what I will say.

So, I learnt that you are not the only one prepared for the presentation. You are willing to share; the audience is willing to listen. I mean, that is why they are before you in the first place.

The audience is waiting to hear what you have to say, just say it! But why do you want to deliver it poorly? Why do you want to kill their expectations? Even if they do not expect much from you, should you really prove the point?

Then she mentioned that they did not notice how nervous I was, that my boldness was what awed them.

So, I learnt that nobody sees how nervous you are if you do not show them. Even when you feel it, swallow that saliva and tell yourself “I no send anybody.”(Colloquial way of saying- I do not care.)

Come on! You are strong and you have been through worse scenarios, you can be brave about this one too.

So, several years later, I got more opportunities to speak up and express myself and I can see the growth over the years.

However, every time I step up for a presentation, I still feel the fear all over again, but what do I do?

I start at the beginning then go on till the end. Then stop!

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