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My Fear of Public Speaking

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Understanding the fear of public speaking, the impact of public speaking fear, strategies for managing and overcoming public speaking fear.

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college essay fear of public speaking

Theo Tsaousides Ph.D.

Why Are We Scared of Public Speaking?

Understanding the roots of this common fear can help us conquer it faster..

Posted November 27, 2017 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

  • What Is Fear?
  • Find a therapist to combat fear and anxiety
  • There are many benefits to being a good public speaker.
  • Fear of public speaking is very common, affecting about 25% of people.
  • The fear may be caused by physiology, beliefs, specific situations, or lack of skill.

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Communicating your ideas clearly and presenting them openly in a public forum is an essential component of success across several domains of life. Being a good public speaker can help you advance your career , grow your business, and form strong collaborations. It can help you promote ideas and move people to action on issues that affect them directly and society at large. To do any of these things well requires a fair amount of standing in front of an audience and delivering a pitch, an idea, or a body of work. And sometimes the only thing that stands between you and your audience is fear.

Glossophobia —a really cool and geeky name for the fear of public speaking —appears when you are performing or expecting to perform an oral presentation or a speech in front of other people. Fear of public speaking is frequently but incorrectly cited as people’s biggest fear. Fear of public speaking is often not people’s biggest fear; there are many other things that people are really scared of . Nevertheless, fear of public speaking is very common; approximately 25 percent of people report experiencing it.

While some people experience a debilitating form of glossophobia, even a mild form can have devastating effects. Fear of public speaking can prevent you from taking risks to share your ideas, to speak about your work, and to present your solutions to problems that affect many people—and as a result, it can affect how much you grow personally and professionally, and how much impact you can have. At the same time, any negative public speaking experiences will make it less likely that you will speak in public in the future—fear teaches you to protect yourself from risky situations.

Why Are We Afraid of Public Speaking?

Fear of public speaking is not so much related to the quality of a speech as it is to how the speaker feels, thinks, or acts when faced with speaking in public. There are many reasons why people become afraid when having to speak in public. The theories exploring the fear of public speaking have identified four contributing factors:

1. Physiology

Fear and anxiety involve the arousal of the autonomic nervous system in response to a potentially threatening stimulus. When confronted with a threat, our bodies prepare for battle. This hyperarousal leads to the emotional experience of fear, and it interferes with our ability to perform comfortably in front of audiences. Eventually, it prevents people from pursuing opportunities for public speaking.

Some researchers suggest that there are people who generally experience higher anxiety across different situations, and are therefore more prone to feel anxious about speaking in public as well. People who are predisposed to feeling anxious find it more challenging to master their anxiety and conquer their fear of public speaking and will opt to avoid it. For other people, the anxiety is limited to public speaking situations, but the physiological signs of fear they experience as they anticipate, prepare, and perform in public are similar.

Moreover, some people experience what researchers call anxiety sensitivity, or the fear of fear. Anxiety sensitivity means that in addition to being worried about public speaking, people are worried about their anxiety about public speaking and how their anxiety will affect their ability to perform in challenging communication situations. So, along with worrying about whether they will accomplish their objectives with their speech, people with high anxiety sensitivity also worry that they will be overwhelmingly anxious in front of their audience, and they will come across as a shaky speaker.

2. Thoughts

Another factor involves people’s beliefs about public speaking and about themselves as speakers. The fear often arises when people overestimate the stakes of communicating their ideas in front of others, viewing the speaking event as a potential threat to their credibility, image, and chance to reach an audience. Negative views of oneself as a speaker ( I am not good at speaking in front of crowds, I am not a good public speaker, I am boring , etc.) can also raise anxiety and augment the fear of speaking in public.

Some theories make the distinction between a performance orientation and a communication orientation. Performance orientation means you view public speaking as something that requires special skills, and you see the role of the audience as judges who are evaluating how good of a presenter you are. In contrast, communication orientation means that the main focus is on expressing your ideas, presenting information, or telling your story. For people with this orientation, the objective is to get through to their audience the same way they get through to people during everyday conversations.

college essay fear of public speaking

Think about this in reverse: If you view any conversation that you have in the presence of another person as a form of “public” speaking, you have enough evidence that you can express yourself clearly and communicate effectively. You would then take the same approach to public speaking events where the focus is simply on sharing ideas and information. However, when the focus shifts from being heard and understood to being evaluated, the anxiety tends to be higher.

3. Situations

While there are people who by nature tend to be more anxious, or people who don’t think they are good at public speaking, there are certain situations that are likely to make most of us more anxious when presenting in a public forum.

  • Lack of experience. As with anything else, experience builds confidence . When you don’t have a lot of stage hours under your belt, you are more likely to experience fear of public speaking.
  • Degree of evaluation. When there is a real or imagined evaluation component to the situation, the fear is stronger. If you are speaking in front of a group of people who have the evaluation forms ready to fill out, you may feel more anxious.
  • Status difference. If you are about to speak in front of people of higher status (e.g., people at your workplace in higher positions, or groups of accomplished professionals in your line of work), you may feel a higher dose of fear tingling through your body.
  • New ideas. If you are sharing ideas that you have not yet shared in public, you may worry more about how people will receive them. When your public appearance involves presenting something new, you may feel more uncomfortable stating your position, taking questions from the audience, or dealing with those audience members who try to poke holes.
  • New audiences. You may already have experience speaking in public and presenting to familiar audiences. You may, for instance, be used to speaking in front of professionals in your area of expertise. Fear may arise, however, when the target audience shifts. If you are standing in front of an audience that is very different from the people you usually speak to, your confidence may be a little shaky.

Finally, another factor that contributes to the fear of public speaking is how skilled you are in this area. While many people consider themselves naturally good speakers, there is always room for growth. The people who work on their skills, instead of relying on natural talent, are the speakers who stand out the most. There are many different approaches to enhancing this skill set and increasing competence in public speaking. Increased competence leads to increased confidence, which is an effective antidote to fear. Nevertheless, confidence alone does not translate into effective public speaking.

The many benefits of sharing information and ideas in public definitely outweigh the need to protect ourselves from the horror of having to speak in front of others. The next logical question is: How do we conquer this fear? Luckily, there are many approaches that work well, both in terms of building skills and boosting confidence.

Read more about how to conquer the fear of public speaking here .

LinkedIn image: fizkes/Shutterstock

Theo Tsaousides Ph.D.

Theo Tsaousides, Ph.D. is a neuropsychologist, assistant professor, and author of the book Brainblocks: Overcoming the Seven Hidden Barriers to Success .

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To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking, Stop Thinking About Yourself

  • Sarah Gershman

college essay fear of public speaking

Tips for before and during your presentation.

Even the most confident speakers find ways to distance themselves from their audience. It’s how our brains are programmed, so how can we overcome it? Human generosity. The key to calming the amygdala and disarming our panic button is to turn the focus away from ourselves — away from whether we will mess up or whether the audience will like us — and toward helping the audience. Showing kindness and generosity to others has been shown to activate the vagus nerve, which has the power to calm the fight-or-flight response. When we are kind to others, we tend to feel calmer and less stressed. The same principle applies in speaking. When we approach speaking with a spirit of generosity, we counteract the sensation of being under attack and we feel less nervous.

Most of us — even those at the top — struggle with public-speaking anxiety. When I ask my clients what makes them nervous, invariably they respond with the same answers:

college essay fear of public speaking

  • Sarah Gershman is an executive speech coach and CEO of Green Room Speakers. She is a professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, where she teaches public speaking to leaders from around the globe.

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Glossophobia (Fear of Public Speaking)

Causes and How to Overcome Your Fear

Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is the most common phobia among people. The good news is that there are ways to cope and learn to overcome your fear, such as using strategies to calm your nerves, practicing the presentation frequently, and engaging your audience with questions.

Public speaking causes feelings of anxiety in 15% to 30% of the general population, and it can sometimes hinder a person's day-to-day life. This is especially true regarding school- or work-related situations involving speaking in front of others.

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, treatment, and healthy ways to cope with glossophobia.

Mikolette / Getty Images

What Is Glossophobia?

"Glossophobia" is the official term used to define a fear of public speaking. It may sometimes also be referred to as public speaking anxiety.

Phobias are categorized into one of three categories:

  • Specific phobia : A fear related to a specific object, like spiders or confined spaces, or a situation, such as flying
  • Social phobia : A fear that involves a significant and persistent feeling of social anxiety or performance-based anxiety
  • Agoraphobia : A fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn't be available if things go wrong. This term is most often used to describe a fear of crowded spaces.

Glossophobia is a social phobia that causes more intense feelings than are normal to experience when it comes to public speaking. Instead of just butterflies in their stomach, those with glossophobia can feel extreme distress in situations that involve speaking in public, interacting with new people, or talking in a group.

Symptoms of Glossophobia

People with glossophobia may experience a variety of symptoms depending on the severity of their condition. They may only experience a fear surrounding performance and public speaking, but they may also have other social anxieties.

Symptoms of glossophobia typically include:

  • A significant fear or dread of public speaking
  • Avoidance of situations that require speaking publicly, either formally in front of an audience or informally via small talk

Those with glossophobia may have other symptoms of social phobia, as well. These may occur before, during, or after a social situation.

Symptoms may include:

  • Avoidance of group conversations
  • Avoidance of parties
  • Avoidance of eating with others
  • Worrying about activities like speaking on the phone or in work meetings
  • Worrying about doing something embarrassing
  • Worrying about blushing or sweating
  • Difficulty doing tasks with others watching
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Worrying about being criticized or judged

Those with social phobia are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than the general public.

As with many phobias, glossophobia may also cause a variety of physical symptoms. Panic attacks are also possible and may lead to increased heart rate, chest pain or tightness, and trembling. Other symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Feelings of choking
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Feeling light-headed or faint
  • Feelings of pins and needles
  • An urgency to go the bathroom
  • Ringing sound in the ears
  • Upset stomach
  • Feeling disorientated

Causes of Glossophobia

A fear of public speaking often begins in adolescence. Social phobias like glossophobia can be caused by a range of factors.

Biological Factors

Glossophobia may be due in part to genetics. Genetics can determine how the brain regulates feelings of anxiety, stress, nervousness, and shyness.

Some people may be born naturally shy, and find social situations difficult to navigate. Most people who have a social phobia have had a shy temperament their whole life.

Learned Behavior

A fear of public speaking can develop after learning the fear from a role model. A child with shy parents who avoid social interactions or speaking in public may be influenced to have the same fear.

A child who witnesses such avoidance may grow up to think speaking in public or socializing with others is upsetting and to be avoided.

Likewise, if a parent overprotects a child who is shy, the child won't have opportunities to become used to situations that involve new people or speaking in public. This can result in a social phobia like glossophobia later in life.

Past Experiences

A life event or past experience that is stressful or upsetting can cause people to associate negative emotions with situations that involve public speaking or interacting with others.

If someone has been criticized or feels humiliated, they may develop a social phobia. If a person is pressured into interacting in a way they are not comfortable with, they may also develop a social phobia.

Those who are bullied are more likely to hide away from others and be afraid of opening themselves up to more criticism by speaking in public.

Since the fear of public speaking is a social phobia, it is typically diagnosed as a nongeneralized type of social anxiety disorder. One study indicated that the fear of public speaking is a common feature of social anxiety disorder, but it may also be present without other signs of social anxiety.

For a person to be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, a mental health professional will perform a psychological evaluation using criteria in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" ( DSM-5) .

You may also undergo a physical exam or lab tests to look for any irregularities in physical health, which will often check a person's hormone, vitamin, and blood levels.

Overcoming a Fear of Public Speaking

Dealing with a fear of public speaking isn't easy. Many people feel nervous if they have to deliver a speech in front of an audience, but there are ways to cope.

The American Psychological Association suggests the following tips to cope with nerves when speaking in public:

  • Begin your speech or presentation with a discussion question : This gets the audience involved and talking and takes the pressure off you for a while.
  • Recognize where your anxious feelings are coming from : Nervousness can be due to excitement. Remember that even if you feel nervous, you can still speak in public without failing.
  • If giving a presentation, remember it's about the topic : The people you are speaking to are focusing less on you personally and more on what you're saying.
  • Try to make eye contact : You may find that making eye contact with the individuals in the group you are addressing allows you to interact with them, and they may nod or smile as you speak, which can help boost your confidence.
  • If giving a formal presentation, rehearse a lot beforehand : It may help to rehearse in the actual space you will be giving a speech. Practicing in front of a group beforehand may help calm your nerves.
  • Experiment with different strategies to calm your nerves : Try deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, or smiling during your presentation (it releases endorphins, which lowers stress). Find out what works for you and then prepare in the same way every time you need to speak in public.

Treating social phobias like glossophobia can be complex, and it may require a number of approaches. Psychological interventions like therapy are known to be effective in the treatment of fear of public speaking.

Treating social phobias involves talk therapies, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy : Also referred to as CBT, this type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) is used to change unhealthy behaviors, particularly those that are related to anxiety, trauma, and depression.
  • Exposure therapy : This type of therapy can help a person overcome their avoidance of a certain object or situation by gradually exposing them to their phobia.

Typically, medication is not used in the treatment of phobias. However, a healthcare provider may prescribe medication for people experiencing significant symptoms of anxiety.

These may include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Tranquilizers
  • Antidepressants

The fear of public speaking is a social phobia and may be caused by several factors, including genetics, learned behavior, and past experiences. It is the most commonly held fear, and people with glossophobia may experience anxiety surrounding either interaction with others, performing in public, or a combination of both. Using coping techniques and treatment involving psychotherapy can help people overcome the fear of public speaking.

Ebrahimi OV, Pallesen S, Kenter RMF, Nordgreen T. Psychological Interventions for the Fear of Public Speaking: A Meta-Analysis.   Front Psychol . 2019;10:488. Published 2019 Mar 15.

Tejwani V, Ha D, Isada C. Observations: Public Speaking Anxiety in Graduate Medical Education--A Matter of Interpersonal and Communication Skills? J Grad Med Educ. 2016 Feb;8(1):111. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-15-00500.1

American Psychological Association.  Specific phobia.

American Psychological Association. Social Phobia.

National Health Service. Overview - Agoraphobia .

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Social Phobia .

National Health Service. Social anxiety (social phobia) .

National Health Service.  Symptoms - phobias . 

Heeren A, Ceschi G, Valentiner DP, Dethier V, Philippot P.  Assessing public speaking fear with the short form of the Personal Report of Confidence as a Speaker scale: confirmatory factor analyses among a French-speaking community sample.   Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat . 2013;9:609-18. doi:10.2147%2FNDT.S43097

American Psychological Association. How to keep fear of public speaking at bay .

National Health Service.  Overview - Phobias

By Elizabeth Pratt Pratt is a freelance medical and mental health journalist with a master's degree in health communication.

Overcoming my Fear of Public Speaking

In this personal narrative, the writer will share their journey of overcoming the fear of public speaking. The essay will describe the challenges faced, strategies employed, and the personal growth experienced through this journey. It will discuss the impact of public speaking anxiety on personal and professional life and how overcoming it can lead to increased confidence and opportunities. The piece will provide insights and tips for others who struggle with similar fears, highlighting the importance of perseverance and self-improvement. On PapersOwl, there’s also a selection of free essay templates associated with Anxiety.

How it works

“Jagger, you’re up.” My eighth-grade Social Studies teacher glanced at me with her bespeckled eyes and congenial smile.

My heart raced. My cheeks turned bright red and my body shook as if it were about to cave in. In an attempt to hide my anxiety, I looked away from my peers as I walked toward the podium. A panel of three teachers sat in front of me with concerned looks on their faces, as if my anxiety had manifested itself into some sort of physical being, which was now displayed center stage in front of over thirty of my peers.

The butterflies in my stomach swarmed as if they were alarmed by a predator within my own gastrointestinal system. I opened my mouth and began to speak.

I had meticulously tweaked my speech several times over the past week to ensure I would be less nervous about the presentation. The five index cards allocated to me by my teacher were filled with microscopic notes I had made to ensure I remembered every detail. This effort, unfortunately, proved futile as I quickly lost my train of thought. Maintaining eye contact with my audience turned into me losing my place in my speech several times. Projecting my voice became a laborious act as my voice shook in agony of the task at hand. Midway through my speech, I stopped and left the room.

In light of what happened, I was taunted by my classmates who had much higher expectations of me. Up to this point I had been known to raise my hand in class, weigh in on debates, and ask questions without fear of being judged. It was the thought of standing in front of my classmates and breaking the silence that shook me to my core. I had ideas and beliefs heavy on my mind and no way to release them into the world.

After that day, I thought about my speech and ran through it once more in my head. In doing so, I thought about my discussion of the advancement of America throughout history and the connection I made to my personal motto, “Excelsior”. This word, which I chose to live by after hearing it in the film Silver Linings Playbook, means “onward to greater things”. Inspired by this concept, I realized the irrationality of my fear and from that point on, I did everything in my power to overcome it. In this process, my confidence soared. I jumped at the chance to get in front of my classmates and enthusiastically presented my thoughts whenever I was given the chance. I entered organizations that required public speaking and assumed leadership roles within them. Soon enough, the overbearing feeling I would get before presentations became nothing more than a trivial discomfort. It was as if the ideas I had inside me grew tired of hiding from the world and began to force themselves out of me.

Overcoming my fear of public speaking was a journey of self-improvement and discovery. That fear once kept me from countless leadership and educational opportunities that I now pursue with every chance I am given. I have continued to use my voice as a way to offer new insight into class discussions and to breathe new life into lessons that would be otherwise unstimulating. Doing these things allows me to not only reap more benefits from my education but also to show others who may still be terrified of speaking in front of their classmates that it is okay to come out of their shell. After all, everyone has meaningful opinions to offer, but it takes courage and confidence to express them. How can we possibly hope to change the world if we refuse to let our ideas be heard? 


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How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking

Microphone over a blue background

Natalie H. Rogers ’79SW, a public-speaking coach, psychotherapist, and author with a background in theater, has helped more than 13,000 people overcome stage fright .

What inspired you to teach public speaking?

Public speaking is said to be the number-one phobia in America. When people are overly self-conscious about the way they look and sound, the consequences can be catastrophic. People drop out of law school, they turn down fabulous jobs and promotions, and they constantly make excuses to avoid talking.

I took a speaking course in college and was horrified by the way it was taught. Most of the students were incredibly uncomfortable, but the teacher would just sit at the back of the room and say “relax” or “make eye contact.” It wasn’t effective at all.

I realized there was no systematic method for teaching public speaking. The academic approach involved a hodgepodge of fragmented theories, lectures, and suggestions. So I created my own science-backed, step-by-step method that got students to distract themselves from negative thoughts and build better performance skills.

Why are so many people terrified of speaking publicly?

Every healthy baby is born with the ability to express itself. For the majority of people, the sense of shame around speaking starts during childhood. Growing up in a strict family might condition you to want to stay quiet and out of trouble. Some children develop speaking anxiety when they first go to school and have to meet new peers and deal with bullying or insensitive teachers.

Other people never had this problem. They always spoke confidently. Then, during adulthood, they suddenly develop stage fright, often as a posttraumatic stress reaction.

Public-speaking coach Natalie H. Rogers, author of "Talk Power"

What makes a good speaker?

Your ability to insert pauses, think systematically, and, most importantly, stay focused and relaxed while people are looking at you. It’s helpful to use a story to illustrate your point and relate the rest of your speech to that narrative. Relying too much on statistics and numbers tends to bore an audience.

The very worst thing is when people talk too fast. They do this because they lose control. They’re nervous and trying to cram as many words as possible into a short amount of time, trying to get the speech over with.

Can you share some speaking tips?

My book,  Talk Power: The Mind-Body Way to Speak Without Fear , includes a variety of exercises that I developed to train the speaker to concentrate. One involves lifting your hands slightly off your lap while you practice speaking, which shifts your attention and helps you stay calm. Another has you walk in slow motion, holding weighted objects. Focusing on your hands or another body part activates your right brain, the nonverbal side. This shuts off the negative thoughts coming from the left brain.

When preparing for a speech, always plan out a clear structure in advance. Never “take a deep breath” to ease panic. When you breathe deeply using your chest, you’re producing adrenaline and stimulating the fight-or-flight response. Instead, breathe from your diaphragm, also known as belly breathing. Take a breath in through your nose as you push your belly out. Pull your belly in and blow out slowly through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Doing this while waiting for your turn to speak will help you stay calm.

If you struggle to insert pauses during your speech, try squeezing your toes a couple of times between each sentence. The advice about making eye contact with the audience? It’s all baloney. You just have to skim the faces of people. The less eye contact the better, because it distracts you from what you’re saying. And of course, practice makes perfect. Public speaking is a learned skill that requires training, just like swimming, riding a bicycle, or playing an instrument.

This article appears in the Winter 2021-22 print edition of Columbia Magazine with the title "Ask an Alum: Talk Therapy." 

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How to overcome fear of public speaking at college.


All over the world, public speaking is the most reputed and accepted co-curricular activity. In every educational institution, it is supported as a co-curricular activity. Most other activities are merely accepted by the institutions but public speaking is something else. Just because this activity will help you to improve your self-esteem and institutional performance.

By mastering public speaking, you can do many things –

  • Give better presentation
  • Make understandable speeches
  • Prove your logics to fellow students and teachers
  • Communicate with everyone

However, the first step in achieving all these things would be to overcome your fear of public speaking.

Ways to Overcome The Fear of Public Speaking

Not everyone is able to give perfect public speeches. Some can do it, and most have fear of it. There are many ways to overcome this fear.

This is a matter of practice at first. But there are many influential activities that will help you to build up the confidence to overcome the fear. It’s actually not the fear that someone feels but rather a lack of confidence. So, to beat the fear of public speaking and boost your college performances you have to build up confidence first. The fear of public speaking is called Glossophobia and you are not the only one who suffers from it.

Always try to speak up in the class

Speaking up in the class with the teacher helps a lot to build up confidence. Always try to stand up and communicate with the teacher. This way, you can easily gain a solution to the problem you or the class is facing and you can also overcome the fear of speaking in front of a lot of people.

Practicing In front of The Mirror

This is a very important practice. Great public speakers, at the beginning of their careers, have tried it at least once in their life. They have said that if you can face yourself while speaking, you can face thousands of other people. Because the fear you’re having is within yourself. So if you can face yourself, you won’t be afraid to face a lot of other people undeniably.

Become an English Tutor

Becoming an English tutor is another good thing you can do. If you become an English tutor, you can easily overcome the fear of public speaking. As an English tutor, you will have to become fluent in presentations, in giving speeches, in communicating with people. Also, teaching English will extend your own vocabulary and by using sophisticated words you will feel more knowledgeable, thus boosting your confidence. While an English tutor is teaching his/her students, he can easily learn the tactics of communication and make the students understand whatever he or she wants to say. The exact same skills can and should be applied in public speaking.

There are many other ways in which you can overcome the fear of stage or the fear of public speaking in front of a lot of people. You have to be relaxed in front of them. To be relaxed and patient and calm, you count the seats to keep the adrenaline flow go slower, or you can breathe to keep your muscles relaxed. Also, pausing frequently, while giving a speech will help you relax and choose the correct words, without sounding awkward.

However, to be honest, these are not permanent solutions. You must find out a permanent solution for a problem like this that works best for you. Because if severe, this can cause panic attacks or even heart attacks. Eventually, with a lot of practice and experience, you will completely eliminate your fear of public speaking.

Ethan Dunwill is a business consultant and contributing blogger for several websites, who currently works as a freelncer. He believes that education is the most important part of any developed society and always eager to share his experience. You can talk to Ethan via Twitter.

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Fear of public speaking: how can i overcome it, how can i overcome my fear of public speaking.

Fear of public speaking is a common form of anxiety. It can range from slight nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic. Many people with this fear avoid public speaking situations altogether, or they suffer through them with shaking hands and a quavering voice. But with preparation and persistence, you can overcome your fear.

These steps may help:

  • Know your topic. The better you understand what you're talking about — and the more you care about the topic — the less likely you'll make a mistake or get off track. And if you do get lost, you'll be able to recover quickly. Take some time to consider what questions the audience may ask and have your responses ready.
  • Get organized. Ahead of time, carefully plan out the information you want to present, including any props, audio or visual aids. The more organized you are, the less nervous you'll be. Use an outline on a small card to stay on track. If possible, visit the place where you'll be speaking and review available equipment before your presentation.
  • Practice, and then practice some more. Practice your complete presentation several times. Do it for some people you're comfortable with and ask for feedback. It may also be helpful to practice with a few people with whom you're less familiar. Consider making a video of your presentation so you can watch it and see opportunities for improvement.
  • Challenge specific worries. When you're afraid of something, you may overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening. List your specific worries. Then directly challenge them by identifying probable and alternative outcomes and any objective evidence that supports each worry or the likelihood that your feared outcomes will happen.
  • Visualize your success. Imagine that your presentation will go well. Positive thoughts can help decrease some of your negativity about your social performance and relieve some anxiety.
  • Do some deep breathing. This can be very calming. Take two or more deep, slow breaths before you get up to the podium and during your speech.
  • Focus on your material, not on your audience. People mainly pay attention to new information — not how it's presented. They may not notice your nervousness. If audience members do notice that you're nervous, they may root for you and want your presentation to be a success.
  • Don't fear a moment of silence. If you lose track of what you're saying or start to feel nervous and your mind goes blank, it may seem like you've been silent for an eternity. In reality, it's probably only a few seconds. Even if it's longer, it's likely your audience won't mind a pause to consider what you've been saying. Just take a few slow, deep breaths.
  • Recognize your success. After your speech or presentation, give yourself a pat on the back. It may not have been perfect, but chances are you're far more critical of yourself than your audience is. See if any of your specific worries actually occurred. Everyone makes mistakes. Look at any mistakes you made as an opportunity to improve your skills.
  • Get support. Join a group that offers support for people who have difficulty with public speaking. One effective resource is Toastmasters, a nonprofit organization with local chapters that focuses on training people in speaking and leadership skills.

If you can't overcome your fear with practice alone, consider seeking professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a skills-based approach that can be a successful treatment for reducing fear of public speaking.

As another option, your doctor may prescribe a calming medication that you take before public speaking. If your doctor prescribes a medication, try it before your speaking engagement to see how it affects you.

Nervousness or anxiety in certain situations is normal, and public speaking is no exception. Known as performance anxiety, other examples include stage fright, test anxiety and writer's block. But people with severe performance anxiety that includes significant anxiety in other social situations may have social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia). Social anxiety disorder may require cognitive behavioral therapy, medications or a combination of the two.

Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P.

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  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed April 18, 2017.
  • 90 tips from Toastmasters. Toastmasters International. https://www.toastmasters.org/About/90th-Anniversary/90-Tips. Accessed April 18, 2017.
  • Stein MB, et al. Approach to treating social anxiety disorder in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 18, 2017.
  • How to keep fear of public speaking at bay. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/tips-sidebar.aspx. Accessed April 18, 2017.
  • Jackson B, et al. Re-thinking anxiety: Using inoculation messages to reduce and reinterpret public speaking fears. PLOS One. 2017;12:e0169972.
  • Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 24, 2017.

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Turning Fear into Confidence—A Personal Essay

October 14, 2020

Facing obstacles throughout your life is inevitable, and the obstacles you overcome can define who you are as a person. Not only will this build character and self-confidence, it will show others how strong you remained and inspire them to overcome their own challenges.

But overcoming obstacles is no simple task. Most obstacles are incredibly hard and testing. Yet, by overcoming them, you will come to understand why they are important. The significance of overcoming obstacles in life is to make you more grounded, courageous, and wise. For me, one of these life-altering obstacles emerged during my undergraduate years.

I had a serious fear of public speaking. There were times where I would struggle with presentations and in-class discussions. When these sessions would take place, my fear built up in a pressure cooker of discouragement and convulsive anguish. I felt humiliated before my teachers, partners, and most of all, my close friends. I soon realized, however, that the same people who seemed to be the source of my fear became my lifeline, their inspirational words filling my mind and heart with positive thoughts.

Seeing my struggles, my peers tried to build me up, to increase my confidence in myself and convince me that anything, including overcoming my fear of public speaking, could be accomplished with enough enthusiasm and belief in oneself.

The obstacles we face in life can distort how we see ourselves and cripple our ability to face our fears. By facing these conflicts head on, though, we can completely flip their effect on us, transforming them into experiences that strengthen our resilience and push the boundaries of what we think is possible to achieve.

Taking everything into account everything I’ve learned from this experience and many others like it that I’ve encountered in my life, it’s clear that obstacles are impossible to avoid, and when you do encounter them, you must view them as learning opportunities. You might just surprise yourself at how easily you overcome them.

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This post was written by Duke TIP’s outgoing Marketing & Communications intern, Christina Gordon. Christina graduated from North Carolina Central University in the spring of 2020.

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Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking: The Ultimate Guide (Day 1, Speaking Palooza 2019)

The following post about overcoming your fear of public speaking by Carma Spence was a part of Speaking Palooza 2019 .

It’s your turn to speak. Suddenly your ears feel hot and your hands begin to shake. You can barely remember what you intended to say. Your palms are sweating and you can feel your neck muscles tensing. You see purple at the edges of your vision and you feel sick to your stomach. What is happening?

You are having an attack of speaking anxiety, also known as the fear of public speaking or glossophobia.

The bad news is that this is a very common experience. The good news is that you can overcome these nasty symptoms if you wish to do so. In this post, I’ll provide you with an atlas of tips that can help you on your quest to becoming an effective, courageous speaker.

Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking: The Ultimate Guide

Table of Contents

What is the fear of public speaking, fear of public speaking facts: what you don’t know can hurt you, what to expect when you’re expecting … to give a speech, previous speaking trauma, mental chatter, specific situations, another fear in disguise, lack of skills, if they can do it, you can do it, anxiety relief techniques, mindset hacks, practical techniques, create your questing map, recommended resources.

The fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears on the planet. Research suggests that about 75% of the Earth’s population has experienced some degree of public speaking fear in their lives. These people feel a sense of dread, nervousness, and concern, as well as physical discomfort when they have to speak to a group of people.

Some people have a mild case of speaking jitters, while others are paralyzed by their fear of public speaking, and many more are somewhere in-between. Some people fear to speak in front of a group of strangers. Some people fear to speak in front of a group of friends. And yet others fear both situations.

If you let this fear stop you in your tracks, you will not be as effective, successful, or as happy as you could be, were you to confront this fear.

Don't let the fear of public speaking stop you in your tracks

If unchecked, speaking anxiety can cause a wide variety of negative effects on a person’s life and career. If you let the fear of speaking get in your way, you can:

  • Be paid 10% less than those who overcome it.
  • Reduce your chances of graduating from college by 10%.
  • Reduce your chances of getting into a professional or managerial position by 15%.

Patricia Fripp , an executive speech coach, says, “If you can stand up and speak eloquently with confidence or at least stagger to your feet and say anything at all, you will be head and shoulders above your competition.”

These fear of public speaking statistics can be very sobering. “If you want to realize your full potential in the world of business,” says Brian Tracy, “you must learn how to improve your effective communication skills to better communicate with people.” And that includes public speaking.

However, now that you know how harmful letting the fear of public speaking go unchecked can be to your life and career goals, you can begin to overcome your fear. First, let’s take a look at the root causes of this anxiety.

There are a wide variety of symptoms you can experience when suffering from speaking anxiety. They are almost the same symptoms that one would experience when afraid of anything at all, including spiders, heights, and first dates.

Physical responses include:

  • Your throat tightening
  • Shortness of breath
  • An increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Year ears and face becoming warm and flushed
  • Shaking, trembling and fidgeting
  • Increased perspiration
  • Difficulty speaking articulately and an increase filler words such as um and ah
  • Gastrointestinal upset, including nausea or diarrhea
  • Light-headedness
  • Neck and upper back tension
  • The sensation of increased or decreased body temperature
  • Acute hearing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweaty palms

Other non-physical responses include feeling awkward, having a hard time formulating your thoughts or remembering what you want to say, and even avoiding eye contact with your audience.

I remember when I was competing on the Speech Team in High School, one contestant gave his entire speech to the blackboard, never looking at his audience at all! And when I was interviewing speakers for my book Public Speaking Super Powers, I heard stories of people fainting, throwing up, and going completely blank.

The fear of public speaking can often feel like the world is coming to an end, but if you decide to face this fear and stare it down, you can make it to the other side. Many people have already done so and therefore have paved the way for you.

you can make it to the other side

What causes the fear of public speaking?

Why are people scared of public speaking? The science behind the fear of public speaking seeks to understand the root causes of this anxiety and there are a variety of theories available. Ultimately, the specific reasons for each person’s public speaking fear will vary. Here is an overview of the prevailing theories.

If your first experience with speaking in front of a group was negative, you are more likely to develop a fear of public speaking. This doesn’t necessarily mean it was a disaster and you were booed off the stage with bits of tomato in your hair. You just needed to perceive it as a bad experience. In this sense, speaking anxiety is a (usually) mild form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

For whatever reason, you’ve silently talked yourself into a tizzy. You believe that you should be afraid, and so you are. This could be caused by a previous bad experience or just something you picked up from other people around you.

Certain situations can trigger specific fears. You may be fine when talking with your friends and family around a table, but shake in your boots when you need to speak up in a meeting at work. Situational fear of public speaking strikes each person who suffers from it differently, usually related to a previous negative experience.

You may not fear public speaking at all. Instead, you may be afraid of being judged or looking like a fool in front of others. Perhaps you are suffering from Impostor Syndrome or low self-esteem. In these cases, it is not speaking in public that scares you, but what it represents.

It can be scary doing something for the first time. But this is the best way to learn speaking skills. You can read books and articles, watch videos and listen to lectures until the cows come home, but at some point, if you want to be a better public speaker, you are going to have to get up in front of a group and speak!

Many people who ended up as skilled orators started out with a fear of public speaking

Many people who ended up as skilled orators started out fearing public speaking. Joel Osteen, Thomas Jefferson, Warren Buffet, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill faced their fear of public speaking and became known as powerful speakers. Many–if not all–accomplished speaker still experience some butterflies before getting up on stage. “I still get a little nervous before I go on stage,” says Maurice DiMino . “It is natural.”

As I mentioned earlier, many of the speakers I interviewed for Public Speaking Super Powers started with crippling speaking anxiety. One even moved—twice—rather than give a presentation at work.

How to vanquish the public speaking mind goblin

There are numerous ways to overcome speaking anxiety, but you can break them down into four basic categories: General anxiety-relieving techniques, mindset hacks, planning ahead, and practical advice. Here’s an overview of the methods that have proven to be most effective for most people:

Anxiety relief techniques are methods of calming your physical response to stress and fear.

Meditation is a practice that attempts to create a state of total physical relaxation while being completely mentally alert. This can be achieved through a variety of exercises and practices that are beyond the scope of this article. Methods that have helped many people overcome speaking anxiety include breath control, focusing on a single point or repeating a mantra. Here are some resources you might find helpful if you decide to try meditation:

  • Book: Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield, PhD
  • Book: Practical Meditation for Beginners : 10 Days to a Happier, Calmer You by Benjamin W. Decker
  • Book: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics : A 10% Happier How-to Book by Dan Harris, Jeffrey Warren and Carlye Adler
  • Blog Post: Tips for meditation by Carma Spence
  • Audio Program: Magical Fear Release Meditation by Carma Spence

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is an approach used to help people change the thoughts that support their fears. It has proven effective in relieving a variety of anxiety disorders, including glossophobia. CBT uses both thinking (cognitive) and behavioral techniques to help sufferers both identify and control the irrational thoughts and beliefs that make them fearful. More than likely, you can find a practitioner of this methodology near you. Here are some resources to help you.

  • Article: Listing of CBT Practitioners in Your Area from Psychology Today
  • Book: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – An Alternative Treatment for Greater Personal Happiness and Contentment by Bill Andrews
  • Book: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy : 7 Ways to Freedom from Anxiety, Depression, and Intrusive Thoughts (Happiness is a trainable, attainable skill!) by Lawrence Wallace
  • Book: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies by Rhena Branch and Rob Willson

EFT or Tapping

Developed by Gary Craig in the early 1990s, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), often called tapping, is a self-improvement technique in which a person taps their fingertips on specific meridian points while simultaneously talking through negative experiences, thoughts, or beliefs. It has been effectively used to treat depression, PTSD, and the fear of public speaking. Here are some resources for you to explore:

  • Book: The Tapping Solution : A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living by Nick Ortner
  • Book: The Tapping Solution for Manifesting Your Greatest Self : 21 Days to Releasing Self-Doubt, Cultivating Inner Peace, and Creating a Life You Love by Nick Ortner
  • Video: The EFT Basic Recipe by Gary Craig
  • Video: How to Tap with Jessica Ortner
  • Video: Fear of Public Speaking – Tapping with Brad Yates (Embedded below)

Breath control and strategic pauses

When you are afraid, you are more likely to breathe rapidly and shallowly, as well as speak quickly. By controlling your breath, slowing it down, and using strategic pauses to slow down your rate of speaking, you can fool your body into thinking it is calm. This reduces many—if not all—of the other symptoms of speaking anxiety. Here are some resources to help you use this technique.

  • Book: Breathe : Simple Breathing Techniques for a Calmer, Happier Life by Jean Hall
  • Video: Breathing Exercises for Confident Public Speaking by Dominic Colenso
  • Video: Sound Like A Leader : How To Breathe Correctly When Speaking by Raquel Baldelomar
  • Video: How to train yourself to breathe from the belly , Carma Spence interviewing Cindy Ashton
  • Video: Voice Lesson : Speaking Fast? Slow down in the Natural Way with Cynthia Zhai

Dr. Amy Cuddy has done a lot of research on how body language can affect body chemistry. She has discovered that by holding what she calls a “power pose” you can change your brain’s chemistry and feel more confident. Watch this video of her TED talk to learn more.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP

According to Wikipedia, neuro-linguistic programming “is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, United States in the 1970s.” Some people swear by this technique for relieving anxiety. Others don’t. My research showed mixed results, but if nothing else works, you could give it a try.

Hypnosis has been used to treat a wide variety of anxiety disorders. You can find audio recordings that address everything from weight loss to smoking cessation to overcoming the fear of public speaking. As with NLP, there are mixed results.

The American Psychological Association describes hypnosis as a cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the suggestions of the hypnotist. It is a methodology that puts you in a relaxed and focused state and helps you go around your conscious mind’s chatter. The problem lies is that no one can make you do something under hypnosis that you don’t agree with. So, if your fear of public speaking is deeply rooted, this technique may not work for you.

Fear of Public Speaking Medication

As a last resort, there is always prescribed medication. There is evidence that some symptoms may be eased or lessened by medications such as beta-blockers. You’ll need to speak with your doctor or psychiatrist about this option.

Your mindset, or how you think about and perceive things, has a very powerful effect on the way you experience things. Here are some techniques for changing your mindset to be less afraid of speaking in public:

Growth mindset and self-confidence

There are two ways you can perceive the world: With a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that they were born with or without skills and that they cannot change. People with a growth mindset believe that everything is learnable when you apply effort and perseverance.

When you cultivate a growth mindset, you empower yourself to become a better speaker and overcome speaking anxiety. You won’t stop yourself just because you aren’t where you want to be now; you’ll embrace the journey to where you want to be.

Growth mindset leads to increased self-confidence, which is very helpful in reducing the fear of speaking. Here are some resources to help you develop a growth mindset:

  • Book: Mindset : The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
  • Article: Harvard Business Review : What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means by Carol Dweck
  • Blog post: Growth Mindset : How to Cultivate One by Carma Spence

cultivate a growth mindset

Pretend you’re not afraid

This may sound too simplistic, but it really does work. Pretend that you are courageous on the stage, and believe it or not, you soon will be. When you feel your heart begin to race, think of it as being excited about sharing your message with your audience rather than being afraid to speak to them. In fact, research suggests that focusing on “becoming calm” rather than “being excited” is not very effective. Check out these resources to learn more about this method:

  • Video: Public Speaking Tip #4: Pretend You’re Not Afraid by Carma Spence
  • Blog post: The Evocation of Heroes by Carma Spence


Many people get this technique mixed up with meditation or affirmations. However, it is quite different.

Visualization is a very powerful way to create the success you want. Researchers have found that people who visualize what they want to happen are more likely to do well than those who don’t.

Take about 15 minutes to calm your mind. Then imagine yourself being a great speaker on the stage. What does it feel like? Are you excited? Are you happy? Are you energized? What does it sound like? Do you hear applause? What does it look like? Are people leaning forward in their chairs, hanging on your every word? Add as many experiential stimuli to your visualization as you can, touch on all your senses: Sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.

Here are some resources to help you with this exercise:

  • Book: Creative Visualization : Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life by Shakti Gawain
  • Book: The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy
  • Book: Visualization and Imagery : Harnessing the Power of the Mind’s Eye by Dovber Pinson

Be authentically you

Sometimes speaking anxiety comes from pretending to be something you are not. Your audience doesn’t want to watch you imitate other speakers. Let Tony Robbins be Tony Robbins and you be you.

When you’re on stage, show off your best authentic self. This means that if you’re silly, be silly. If something you’re saying makes you feel vulnerable or sad, share your vulnerability or sadness. Genuine emotion and honest communication win audiences. You might be surprised how well an audience can spot a fake or tell when you aren’t being authentic with them.

you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to get your message across

It’s not about you!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Your speech isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. Dale Carnegie says that, “an effective speaker knows that the success or failure of his talk is not for him to decide — it will be decided in the minds and hearts of his hearers.”

Ask yourself: What do they need to hear? What do they need to know?

That’s all they care about.

In fact, the audience is on your side. They want you to do well. They want you to inform them, inspire them, entertain them. They aren’t giving you their precious time so you can bomb!

When you can get your mind around this idea, you will release a lot of the stress behind your fear of public speaking. You’ll realize you don’t need to be perfect , you just need to get your message across. “The truth is,” says Dr.Gary Genard , an internationally recognized expert in communication performance, “that you’re just there to talk to listeners about a topic of mutual interest. The audience really does want to hear what you have to say.”

Your audience will overlook a few filler words, a faulty PowerPoint and even a wardrobe malfunction if you give them your message with passion, enthusiasm, and authenticity.

Here are some more resources on this topic:

  • Blog post: Book Review : The Perfection Deception by Jane Bluestein
  • Blog post: Authenticity : How to bring it onto the stage by Carma Spence
  • Blog post: Vulnerability Is Key to Authenticity by Carma Spence

Focus on your material, not the audience

OK. This may sound like I’m contradicting my last point but stick with me for a moment. When I say focus on your material, what I mean is focus on your message. Before you developed your presentation, you thought about the audience and what they needed from you. Now that you’re on the stage, focus on communicating that message in the best way possible.

Here are some resources to help you out:

  • Podcast (with video): The CAP Podcast, Episode 17: Your Million Dollar Message , Carma Spence Interviews Maurice DiMino
  • Video: What moves you? , Weekday Wisdom Episode 101 with Carma Spence
  • Blog post (with video): Power Thought: Let your light shine

Celebrate your successes

More than likely, you’re not going to go from knee-knocking to knockout, so don’t get down on yourself when you don’t reach perfection right away. Instead, focus on what you did right. Focus on where you are showing improvement. Celebrate those successes!

Dale Carnegie once said, “Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident.” Although things don’t always go to plan, it can be really helpful in reducing the stress around speaking by making sure you’re prepared for your presentation.

Nothing is more stressful than giving a presentation that you don’t know much or couldn’t care less about

Talk about what you know and are passionate about

“The best speeches come from the heart and reflect your passion,” says master speaker coach Arvee Robinson . Nothing is more stressful than giving a presentation that you don’t know much or couldn’t care less about. One time, I developed a speech on memory and forgot it. How embarrassing!

When you are passionate about what you’re talking about, when you’re confident that you know what you’re talking about, it is so much easier to make your butterflies fly in formation.

Not sure what your passion or expertise is? Here are some helpful resources:

  • Book: The Passion Test : The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose by Janet and Chris Attwood
  • Blog post: Audio File: The Passion Test by Carma Spence
  • Blog post: The Power of Passion in Public Speaking by Carma Spence

Be organized

I don’t recommend memorizing your speech verbatim. In fact, that was one reason why I forgot that memory speech I mentioned earlier. Instead, develop a strong, memorable outline as your guideline and memorize that. If you’re talking about something you know and are interested in, you can flesh out the outline on the fly.

Be prepared

There are two ways to prepare yourself for your presentation: Practice your speech and create a Plan B for when things go wrong.

Entertainers often practice an hour for every minute of their performance. Many speakers follow this rule of thumb, as well. You want to get to the point where you know your opening and your conclusion by heart and can easily flow from one point in the body of your speech to another. “The goal,” wrote Michael Port in his book Steal the Show , “is to know your material so well that you are free to be in the moment.”

For some people, this equals an hour of practice for a minute of presentation. For some, it is less and for others, it is more. Find your sweet spot and remember that it is better to over than to under, practice.

And, of course, we all know about best-laid plans, right? Well, your presentation could go off without a hitch—or it couldn’t. So develop a Plan B, and a Plan C, if you really want to make sure things go well.

What does this mean?

It means having a backup plan for when the projector doesn’t work or PowerPoint won’t cooperate. It means having a game plan for when your shoe’s heel falls off or your suitcase doesn’t arrive. It means being mentally—and sometimes physically—prepared for mistakes, technical difficulties, and acts of nature.

Anticipate your audience

Along these lines, do your best to get inside the heads of your audience and come prepared to answer their questions, address their concerns and make them feel like they made a good choice to listen to you today. I have a video program that can help you do this.

Practice your speech in front of a mirror so you can better visualize how you’re doing.

Now that you’ve addressed your fear of public speaking by calming your body, strengthening your mind and planning for your best speaking performance, here are a few more things you can do to reduce speaking anxiety:

Practice in front of a mirror or video camera

For many, speaking in front of people is too big a step. They are paralyzed by their fear. What they can do is push the envelope of their fear by taking one baby step at a time. I recommend practicing your speech in front of a mirror so you can better visualize how you’re doing.

Recording your practice with a video recorder (you have one if you have a smartphone!) is even better. That way you can watch yourself more objectively and notice areas for improvement. Brian Tracy suggests you pay attention to your facial expressions, gestures and body movement, as well as how welcoming you appear. Then record the improved presentation and watch that video, making a note of where you improved so you can celebrate those successes, as well as areas for further improvement.

In addition to helping you get comfortable speaking before an audience, this is a great way to practice your speech in general.

Practice in front of people you trust

Once you’re comfortable practicing in front of a mirror and video camera, now it’s time to get in front of a warm, welcoming audience. Grab a friend, a family member or two, and practice in front of them. Then ask for their feedback. Coach them to tell you what you are doing well, as well as providing suggestions for improvement. You want this to be a good experience, not a confirmation of your fear.

Get training

Getting professional—and even non-professional—help is a great way to improve your skills, increase your confidence and decrease your fear.

Local community colleges and Parks and Recreation departments often offer speaking classes for adults. Take one!

Another good option is to join a local public speaking club where you not only learn new skills but get to practice them, as well, with others who are in the same boat as you. A 2018 study reported that previously trained students—near-peer mentors—can act as trainers for fellow students working to improve their public speaking skills. Toastmasters.org is a great resource for finding a club like this, but you can also check out MeetUp for other types of public speaking clubs.

If these group activities are too much for you, can also hire a coach to work with you one-on-one until you’re ready for a group environment. You can also check out the variety of online public speaking courses available.

Only 8% of people with a fear of public speaking seek professional help, despite the negative effect on their life and career. Don’t let that be you.

Wear glasses? Take them off!

Sometimes seeing your audience too clearly can be anxiety-provoking. When I was first starting out as a speaker, I found that taking my glasses off so that the audience looked muted and slightly out of focus helped ease my anxiety.

Harness your nervous energy

Your opening sets the stage for the rest of your presentation. Why not use those pre-speaking nerves to give your opening a bit of extra gusto and enthusiasm? Once you’re on a roll, your nervous energy will become genuine enthusiasm.

There is power in silence .

Yes, sometimes it is better to pause, say nothing at all, to emphasize your point.

Pausing has another effect, as well. It slows down your speech. Your audience cannot understand at the same rate they can hear. The human mind takes a moment to comprehend what it hears. Therefore, you need to speak almost painstakingly slow to make sure that your audience has time to digest what you are saying. Here are helpful resources on this topic:

  • Article: Fast Talkers : How to Slow Down in Front of an Audience
  • Article: How to slow down your speech : do we need a new approach?
  • Article: How to Slow Down Nervous, Speedy Speech

The human mind takes a moment to comprehend what it hears. You need to speak slowly to make sure your audience has time to digest what you are saying.

Now that you have a better understanding of the fear of public speaking and how to overcome it, it is time to develop a plan to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Which techniques will you try? When will you put them into action?

If you take action, soon you’ll be able to stand before an audience with confidence and—dare I say it?—charisma!

I’ve provided you with a variety of specific resources throughout this post. Here are some more general resources that you might find helpful.

  • Book: Public Speaking Super Powers by Carma Spence
  • Book: 100 Days to Brave : Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self by Annie F. Downs
  • Book: Being Unapologetic : Empowering You to Become an Influential Speaker and Visionary Leader by Davide Di Giorgio

About Carma Spence

Carma Spence

Her strength and courage were hard-won. She has survived an abusive marriage; an attack by her boyfriend; and being hit by a car (three separate times). This mix of experiences makes Carma a good mentor to those struggling with owning their gifts.

Public Speaking Super Powers Palooza 2019 - Break free from the fear of public speaking

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About the author

This post is part of Speaking Palooza. Created by Carma Spence, author of the award-winning, bestselling book Public Speaking Super Powers , it is a month-long event bringing together a wide variety of speaking experts from throughout the English-speaking world to help you overcome the fear of speaking and become a better speaker.

Please see the "About" section above for more information about today's featured expert.

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Overcoming public speaking anxiety: Strategies for students and educators

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college essay fear of public speaking

One of the most common fears among students and teachers is public speaking. When faced with the problem of self-expression in front of others, a person may experience anxiety or extreme nervousness. Because of it, some begin to avoid public speaking in order not to experience discomfort. However, sometimes it is necessary, especially for a student or teacher. To make it easy for a person to speak in public, there are tips and strategies for overcoming fear.

Understand your anxiety

The foremost step to overcoming public speaking worries is to understand your fear. Mainly if it occurs in an educational environment such as a school or college . When a person recognizes his reaction to these actions and realizes this is normal, he can quickly solve his problem. Everyone experiences different feelings and symptoms when performing in front of a group of other people. Having realized his anxiety, the student or the teacher can choose a correct solution to the problem to overcome his fear.

For students to better express their thoughts in public speaking, teachers can give them assignments to write an essay. Not all students can do this work independently, especially if they study at a medical educational institution. Fortunately, you can find nursing essay writing and cope with the task. It is especially useful when a student does not have time. He can turn to writing services to devote his attention to other required matters.

Practice is one of the most effective methods for overcoming the fear of public speaking. It is required to train your speech or presentation as much as possible. It will help you better absorb the material and avoid discomfort in the future. If you practice in front of a mirror, you can determine which areas need improvement. It can be the tempo of the voice or the posture. You can also practice speaking in front of a small group of people you know well to gain confidence.


Visualization can help and be a powerful tool in overcoming the fear of public speaking, significantly improving education . Students and teachers who think ahead and imagine their successful performance further strengthen their confidence. It also dramatically helps to reduce the level of anxiety , which greatly helps them in the future. This method should include a mental rehearsal of the speech, including all external factors that may arise and details of the setting and audience. The better a person can visualize and think through everything, the more confident and comfortable he will feel, as well as control all his actions when it comes time to make an actual speech.

Relaxation technique

Thanks to relaxation techniques, a person can manage the physical symptoms of fear of public speaking and better focus on the lesson or classes . Generally, the best methods are deep breathing and mindfulness meditation. It allows students and teachers to significantly reduce the tension in their bodies and calm it down. Such methods make it much easier to focus on the present moment and accept thoughts without unnecessary feelings and judgments. Practicing these relaxation techniques before a speech or presentation is recommended to feel more relaxed and in control of the situation.

Audience engagement

One of the best ways to reduce public speaking anxiety is to create a sense of connection and support. This technique is especially relevant when speaking at the university . It is recommended to take some time to study the audience to understand their interests and needs. For engagement to be better, it is necessary to maintain eye contact during the speech. It will allow you to feel more confident and control the situation while significantly reducing anxiety.

Set realistic goals

One of the best methods is to set realistic goals to deal with the fear of public speaking. Instead of focusing on excellence, the student or teacher can focus on many tiny, easily achievable goals. These can include making eye contact with the audience or delivering a clear speech. By setting realistic goals, you can feel more confident and more in control when speaking, which can help reduce anxiety.

Speaking anxiety can be too severe for some students and teachers to deal with alone. Outsiders with people’s experience in this area can help in such cases. There are also mental health professionals who can offer many specialized methods for managing public speaking anxiety. Seeking help can be a valuable step in overcoming the fear of public speaking for those who need it.

Public speaking anxiety is common among people, including students and teachers. Fortunately, there are now many mods that can help overcome this fear and deal with this problem. A few of the most basic of these strategies that regularly help students and teachers are given in our article. Thanks to it, a person not only gets rid of his fear of public speaking but also gets rid of discomfort and strengthens his confidence.

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Public Speaking as My Biggest Fear

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Essay on Overcoming Fear Of Public Speaking

Students are often asked to write an essay on Overcoming Fear Of Public Speaking in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Overcoming Fear Of Public Speaking

Understanding fear.

Many people get scared when they have to speak in front of others. This fear can make your heart beat fast and your palms sweat. It’s normal to feel this way, but it’s important to remember that everyone can learn to be less afraid.

Practice Makes Perfect

One of the best ways to get over this fear is to practice a lot. You can start by talking in front of a mirror, then with family, and slowly move to bigger groups. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Know Your Stuff

If you know what you’re talking about well, you’ll feel more confident. Take time to learn about your topic. When you understand it, you won’t be as worried about making a mistake.

Think Positive

Try to think good thoughts about speaking. Imagine people enjoying your talk and learning something new. Positive thinking can make a big difference in how you feel.

Breathe and Relax

Before you start speaking, take deep breaths to calm down. Stand up straight and smile. This will make you feel stronger and ready to share your ideas with the audience.

250 Words Essay on Overcoming Fear Of Public Speaking

When we talk about being scared of speaking in front of people, it’s normal. Many people get nervous when they have to talk to a group. This fear can come from not wanting to make a mistake or worrying about what others will think.

Starting Small

One way to beat this fear is to start with small steps. Try talking in front of friends or family first. It’s like learning to swim by first staying in the shallow part of the pool. As you get more comfortable, you can move to deeper water, or in this case, bigger groups.

Preparation Is Key

Being ready can help a lot. Know what you want to say. Practice it many times. When you know your topic well, you feel more confident. It’s like having a map when you go on a trip. If you know the way, you’re less likely to get lost.

Imagine Success

Think about doing well. Picture the audience listening and smiling. It’s like dreaming about scoring a goal in soccer. When you think about good things happening, it can make them more likely to happen.

Just Breathe

Before you speak, take deep breaths. This helps calm your body. It’s like taking a break when you’re running. Breathing gives you a moment to relax and get ready.

Keep Practicing

The more you speak in public, the easier it gets. It’s like riding a bike. At first, you might fall, but soon you can ride without thinking about it. Keep trying, and one day you might even enjoy speaking to a crowd!

500 Words Essay on Overcoming Fear Of Public Speaking

Understanding fear of public speaking.

Many people get nervous when they have to talk in front of a group. This fear is very common, and it’s called the fear of public speaking. When we stand up to speak to an audience, we might worry that we will forget what to say, not make sense, or that people will not like our talk. This fear can make our heart beat fast, our hands shake, and our voice sound shaky.

One way to get better at public speaking is to start with small steps. You could begin by talking in front of a mirror, then move on to speaking in front of a few friends or family members. As you get more comfortable, you can speak to bigger groups. This is like learning to swim by first getting used to water in a small pool before jumping into a big one.

Preparing Well

Being ready can help you feel less scared. If you know your topic well, you will feel more confident. Spend time writing down what you want to say and practice it many times. You can also learn about your audience, so you can talk about things they like or understand. Knowing your stuff makes you ready to answer questions, too.

Using Tools and Techniques

There are tools and tricks that can make public speaking easier. For example, you can use pictures or slides to show your ideas. This can help the audience understand better and give you things to talk about. Breathing exercises can also calm you down before you start speaking. Taking deep breaths fills your body with oxygen and helps your brain work better.

Learning from Others

Watching other people who are good at public speaking can teach you a lot. You can see how they stand, how they use their hands, and how they talk to the audience. There are videos and talks online that you can watch. You can also join a club at school where you can practice speaking and get tips from others.

Turning Fear into Excitement

The feelings of fear and excitement are very similar. Both can make your heart race and your energy go up. You can try to think of your fear as excitement. Tell yourself that you are excited to share your ideas, not scared. This can change how you feel and make speaking in front of others more fun.

Getting Feedback and Improving

After you speak in public, ask for feedback from people you trust. They can tell you what you did well and what you can do better next time. Remember that making mistakes is okay. Each time you speak, you learn and get better.

Overcoming the fear of public speaking takes time and practice. By starting small, getting ready, using helpful tools, learning from others, turning fear into excitement, and getting feedback, you can become more comfortable speaking in front of others. Remember, even the best speakers were once beginners, too. With patience and practice, you can beat the fear and maybe even start to enjoy public speaking!

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

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How These College Students Overcame Fear of Public Speaking

Posted by Kyle Ziemnick on 3/22/18 9:00 AM


His coonskin cap and leather jacket rose above the crowd as he stepped onto the stage. He looked out at the colorful cast of characters before him, prepared to deliver the speech he’d worked on for days.  Instead of pouring forth eloquent wisdom, though, Crockett froze. He couldn’t speak. His mouth dry, he stared at his feet, wondering what to do.

No, the real Davy Crockett hadn’t come back from the dead. It was 8-year-old Gabe Blacklock, dressed as Crockett for a speech.

Now a Patrick Henry College sophomore, Blacklock (right) would go on to be a successful high school debater, qualify for the collegiate moot court national championship, and coach a local debate club.

But that night, Blacklock needed an adult’s help to get any words out of his mouth, much less anything compelling.

“It showed what an absolute fear of public speaking I had,” Blacklock said. “I was so nervous.”

About 90 percent of Americans suffer from speech anxiety, according to a 2011 Forbes article . Both before and during their collegiate forensic careers, many PHC students have had to overcome that anxiety .

Sui, Thomas.jpg

Senior Thomas Siu (left), who won the national moot court championship in 2017 , has participated in forensics competitions for nine years. He vividly remembered his emotions from the first time he had to give a speech in a competitive context.

“Initially, it was terrifying. I knew I was afraid of it. I wasn’t a fan,” Siu said. “But I also realized that it was something that I needed to do.”

Fellow senior Sarah Geesaman  (below) didn’t begin competing until her junior year of high school, but she suffered from the same problems as Siu.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” Geesaman said. “I actually started speech and debate because I had a major fear of public speaking. I told myself, ‘I’m going to force myself to do this since I’m afraid of it.’”

To overcome these nerves, these students employed several techniques , but one tried and true method stood above the rest: preparation.

For all of these students, the effort that they’ve put into forensics, both time-wise and emotional, has paid off huge dividends.


For Blacklock, there’s an even more vital takeaway from his experience.

“It’s really, really important to overcome fear in speaking, because sharing the Gospel requires the exact same skills,” he said. “It’s not enough to just give speeches; we also have to be able to engage with someone back and forth.”

In January 2017, Siu engaged in the moot court national championship round against the Air Force Academy. After all four speakers had given their arguments, Siu rose to deliver the closing rebuttal. With years of experience under his belt, he should have been prepared for this moment.

But even Siu had to pause.

“It’s pretty lonely up here,” he recalled thinking. Then, he relaxed. “I wasn’t alone.”


Reporting courtesy of PHC's student publication,  The Herald.   Click the button to below to read more!

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Say Goodbye to Fear of Public Speaking

Nervous male college student wipe face sweating from worries before public speaking

Have you ever tried to speak in public and your voice just suddenly disappears? Like, even if you do hear a voice – notice I say “a voice” – it is nowhere near your natural voice. It’s strange. It’s shaky. And it’s fine and shrill. That kind of voice is no good for public speaking.

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve probably suffered from one of those horrifying public speaking attacks. Thank God I found some good tips to improve my public speaking skills . Without these tips, I couldn’t have survived college.

As you know, one of the first hurdles to getting into college is the big interview . Interviews can be one of the scariest things to do. But if you think that’s scary. Then wait until its your time to make your presentation in front of a class full of college students and professors. And by the way, you’ll have many of those presentations to make throughout your college life.

You might think that you’re the only one who is terrified of public speaking. But this phenomenon is so popular that there is a term for it


Glossophobia is the term used to describe the fear of public speaking. Around 75% of people struggle with anxiety related to public speaking. Doctors in the U.S have confirmed that around 5-9% of Americans are fearful of public speaking. They have also confirmed that younger patients tend to fear public speaking more.

Now the big question is, how do I get over my fear of public speaking? Well, here are some things you can do to kill your fear of public speaking.

1. Imitate Good Examples

The best way to get good at public speaking is to watch exemplary speakers. That can help you to find strategies to organize and develop the content of your speech. Ted Talks is an online platform that provides videos of exemplary speakers. You can also find great delivery tips to make your presentations so impressive that your audience will be begging to hear more. There are many groups that you can join to help overcome your fear of public speaking. Many colleges in the USA have public speaking clubs and classes. Also you can join a toastmasters club that’s convenient for you. They have lots of resources to help you improve your public speaking skills.

2. Plan Effectively

You usually know in advance when you have a speech or a presentation. So you should give yourself enough time to plan. Make sure that you stay very organized. A good way to stay organized is to make yourself a to do list. Prioritize your tasks and start working on them as soon as possible. To make sure that you stay on schedule, you should write a due date for each task. Then make sure you do your best to stick to these due dates.

What should your plan include?

Research – Before you can talk confidently about any topic, you need to be very knowledgeable about it. As you do your research, try to find answers and solutions to important questions that your audience will have. That way, you will feel more confident about your speech or presentation. You will know that your information will be valuable to your audience. As Michael H. Mescon puts it, “The best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about.” So set yourself a realistic timeline to complete your research.

Draft – Having done your research, it is time to organize your ideas and create a draft for your presentation. Outline your main points clearly with effective supporting details. Then decide on your presentation style or format . That way you’ll know what aids to get for your presentation. Aids could include technological devices such as a projector and a laptop. Or aids could include objects or printed materials. Remember to set your timeline for completing this draft.

Refine Content – After completing your draft, it is time to refine your content and make it ready for the public. That means you should make sure that you have strong content based on reliable support. Additionally, you should correct all your mistakes. It is also important to make sure that the amount of content that you have, fits the time frame of your presentation. Having too much or too little information will increase your nervousness. So you do not want to have too little information and then try to speak too slowly to fill the time gap. Or you don’t want to have too much information and then run out of time midway your presentation.

If you are using PowerPoint, make sure that you do not crowd the slides with too much graphics and information. That might be very confusing for your audience. So make sure that your information and graphics are clear and easy to understand. Remember to make time for refining your content on your schedule.

Practice – Now that you have valuable content for your presentation, you need to work on your delivery. What you say is important but how you say it, is what engages the audience. So you need to practice your presentation to get the right tone, pace and gestures. Work on making sure that your delivery skills are on point so that you can properly engage your audience. Do not read your speech or dictate the notes on your slides. Be so familiar with your content that you can speak fluently without relying too much on your notes.

You can video record yourself so that you can acknowledge your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Get your friends and your family members to pose as your audience. They can provide you with useful feedback to make your presentation more effective. Also the more you practice the more familiar you’ll be with your content and the more confident you’ll feel to make the presentation. Aside from making an outstanding delivery, you must make sure that you do not exceed or go way under the time limit. Hence, make sure that you time your presentation during practice to stick to the time limit. Also make sure that you schedule various times to practice.

3. Relax and Think Positively

Having done your best to prepare valuable content and improve your delivery skills, it’s time to relax and think positively. Take some time to clear your mind of negative thoughts. Spend some time to meditate or do some yoga to relax your mind. You know what best relaxes you, so just do it. Focus on doing well. So you have done the preparation, now it’s time to believe in yourself. It’s time to acknowledge that you have great content that people need. Being nervous is natural. But you can try to control it. Just train your mind to think positively. If you’re concerned that you have serious anxiety issues. There are many ways to treat anxiety and nervousness . Breathing exercises, jogging and mental distraction are some good strategies to try.

4. Dress for success

Finally, wear something comfortable and appropriate that you like. The way you dress can make you feel good about yourself. And when you feel good about yourself, it’ll be easier to feel confident. That confidence can help you to feel more relaxed about making your presentation. That confidence can also help you to feel more optimistic that your presentation will be a success.

5. Be early

Being late for a speech or presentation can ruin everything. You need to show up early so you can set up the necessary equipment. It also gives you time to prepare mentally for your audience. You can use this time to coach your mind to think success into being.

But if you show up late, you’ll become self conscious of your tardiness. So that could make you less confident and you might not even have time to set up your aids.

So stop being so freaked out about public speaking. As Somers White said, “90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” Spend time preparing for your college speech and presentation and you’ll develop the confidence you need to do well.

For more great advice about how to do well in college, check out the other blogs at College Basics.

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Student Editorial Boards Rebuke College Officials for Protest Decisions

Around the nation, editorial boards at college newspapers have defended free speech and pro-Palestinian protesters in recent weeks.

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Tents abound on a grassy area at Columbia University, while students sit in the foreground on tarps with various signs supporting the Palestinian people. A classic building with columns is seen in the background.

By Anna Betts and Jonathan Wolfe

As protests over the Israel-Hamas war have erupted at U.S. universities in recent months, student journalists have been reporting daily as their campuses have been embroiled in debates over free speech, university investments and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Some student newspapers’ editorial boards have offered assessments of their campus disputes. They have opined on how administrators are responding to protesters and defended the rights of students to speak out. They have been particularly vocal about the threats of harassment and doxxing, which many editorial boards have argued were stifling free speech on campus.

Here are a few of the editorials that have been written by student newspapers in the last couple of weeks as tensions have escalated at several campuses.

Columbia University

Columbia’s crisis is not as the committee has attempted to define it — a characterization stemming from the belief that the University has become a hotbed of antisemitic thought and behavior. Rather, the crisis is rooted in a lack of genuine community engagement on the part of the administration, as well as a failure to fulfill its duty of care to all affiliates.

Columbia Spectator

The editorial board at the Columbia Daily Spectator published an editorial just hours after Nemat Shafik, the university president, called the police onto campus last week to empty an encampment of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. More than 100 students were arrested , causing an uproar among the school community.

In the strongly worded editorial, published on April 18 and titled “Is Columbia in crisis?” , the students on the editorial board wrote that the school administration had “failed to genuinely engage with its students, faculty, and staff,” and that the university was slowly becoming a “space of distrust, suppression, and fear.”

By inviting the New York Police Department onto the campus, and allowing the police to arrest over 100 students, Dr. Shafik, who goes by Minouche, had disrupted campus life and infringed “on her supposedly paramount principle of safety,” the board wrote.

The board also criticized the administration for its congressional testimony last week before the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce: “Shafik and her fellow administrators were all too willing to succumb to pressure from representatives, essentially conflating pro-Palestinian campus activism with antisemitism and repeatedly condemning the words and actions of both students and faculty to appease committee members.”

Speaking directly to school officials, the editorial board added: “You must confront your failure to fulfill your duty of protecting and representing your students and their concerns. Otherwise, you will further marginalize, endanger, and distance your students, indefinitely trapping Columbia in its self-inflicted crisis.”

The University of Michigan

The answer to the current campus climate is to ease tensions on both sides: the University and the students. That means truly facilitating dialogue instead of threatening to silence it.

The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily’s editorial board this month discussed the rising tensions on campus as school officials tried to clamp down on pro-Palestinian protests and calls for divestment from Israel.

In March, about 100 student protesters at Michigan disrupted a university event and protested the school’s investment in companies they said were profiting from Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. The police in Ann Arbor, Mich., cited three students, according to The Michigan Daily .

A few days later, the university president, Santa Ono, along with the Board of Regents, released a draft of a Disruptive Activity Policy , which restricted activities that disrupted the “free flow of persons about campus” or university operations.

In an editorial, “Santa Ono, don’t silence student voices,” The Michigan Daily board wrote that the “campus is becoming a pressure cooker” and that “the more the University clamps down on student voices, the louder and more impassioned they will become.”

Cornell University

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the current administration doesn’t seem to see Cornell’s mission as anything other than that of a profit-making machine. As student and faculty protests have expanded, President Martha Pollack and the administration have responded by cracking down and condemning when they should really be engaging and listening. Instead of considering the views of the student body, staff and faculty — the very people who breathe life into the Cornell community — Pollack has consistently deferred to conservative donors and congressional crooks.

The Cornell Daily Sun

The editorial board of The Cornell Daily Sun last week endorsed calls for Cornell to divest from arms manufacturers directly involved in the Israel-Hamas war.

“The Sun wholeheartedly endorses the pro-side of both questions and joins the call for Cornell University to divest from arms manufacturers directly involved in what the International Court of Justice has called a “ plausible ” genocide,” the editorial board wrote. “Cornell should in no way support a war that has been waged with callous disregard for civilian lives.”

“It’s time for Cornell to lead the way, call for a cease-fire and pull our money out of investments in potential war crimes,” it added.

Harvard University

Cracking down on this nonviolent protest group will only inflame community relations at a time when the opposite is needed. By forcing the PSC — and, due to its own club recognition freeze, several of the PSC’s partners — to operate underground, Harvard further alienates pro-Palestinian students, compromising its ability to engage with them constructively. The chaos at Columbia, in no small part a result of the University suspending student advocacy groups last semester, makes that much clear.

The Harvard Crimson

The Harvard Crimson reported on Monday that the Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee, a student organization, had been suspended for the rest of the spring term after the group held a rally on Friday to support the protesters at Columbia. The university said the group ran afoul of campus protest guidelines.

On Tuesday, the Crimson’s editorial board denounced that decision.

“On a campus where, from the start, administrators did too little too late to protect pro-Palestinian speech, this feels like suppression,” the editorial board wrote. “Whatever the impetus, the decision will be taken as a paranoid response to events at Columbia and elsewhere.”

“Student groups aren’t above the rules. But the rules aren’t above the good of this campus. Harvard must choose the latter,” it added.

The University of Southern California

The Daily Trojan loudly and proudly proclaims itself to be “fiercely independent.” We therefore recognize the value and importance of free expression, especially in the face of a powerful University. It is for this reason, among others, that the Editorial Board calls for USC to allow our valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, to speak at commencement.

The Daily Trojan

Administrators at the University of Southern California drew national attention on April 16 when they canceled the graduation speech of this year’s valedictorian . The student, Asna Tabassum, had faced criticism from two campus groups because she had expressed pro-Palestinian views on social media. The school said that the decision was driven by security concerns related to “the intensity of feelings” over the conflict in the Middle East.

Three days later, the editorial board of The Daily Trojan, the student newspaper, demanded that Ms. Tabassum be allowed to speak.

The board wrote: “As USC boasts of its Arab American Heritage Month celebrations, the decision to select a Muslim student as valedictorian should be a testament to the University’s commitment to equity. But as soon as that student was found to have a view that was not palatable to some, the University’s efforts proved to be performative.”

A few paragraphs later, the board wrote: “The University claims it is not breaking any laws or guidelines by preventing Tabassum from speaking, but it is committing an act possibly even more egregious: breaking students’ trust. After failing to stand by Tabassum as she faced online vitriol and instead caving to the interests of those perpetuating that hate, it’s clear the University does not support even its best students if the decision could cause a stir.”

“That the University would deny its highest-performing student a time-honored tradition out of fear she may speak up calls into question the integrity of the education we all chose to pursue here.”

University of California, Los Angeles

At this moment, there is no greater threat than censoring student voices and falling short of guaranteeing their First Amendment rights. And if USC truly believes in its self-proclaimed value of free speech on its campus, it must reinstate Tabassum’s valedictorian speech.

Daily Bruin

On Sunday, the editorial board at the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper at the University of California, Los Angeles, also rebuked the cancellation of Ms. Tabassum’s commencement speech.

“The decision to characterize Tabassum’s valedictorian speech as a threat to public safety is an overreach on behalf of the administration,” the editorial board wrote. “Even if safety were to be a legitimate concern for USC, deploying the necessary security force at commencement should not be an issue.”

“For the administration to censor Tabassum in order to prevent any tensions from arising during commencement only puts the university in murky waters,” the board added. “The safety concern is nothing more than the anticipation of hecklers over Tabassum’s stance on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, citing a pro-Palestinian link on Tabassum’s social media.”

Anna Betts reports on national events, including politics, education, and natural or man-made disasters, among other things. More about Anna Betts

Jonathan Wolfe is a senior staff editor on the newsletters team at The Times. More about Jonathan Wolfe

Our Coverage of the Israel-Hamas War

News and Analysis

Israel has not provided evidence to support its accusations that many employees of the main U.N. agency  for Palestinian refugees are members of terrorist organizations, according to an independent review commissioned by the United Nations.

The United Nations says famine is likely to set in by May in Gaza. For those living under Israel’s attacks and a crippling blockade, every day is a race against time. Here’s how two Palestinian families  try to keep their children alive.

Israel has failed to achieve its two primary goals of the war, while the suffering of Palestinians  erodes support even among its allies. Here’s a look inside the stark reality  of Israel’s fight in Gaza.

The United States is considering imposing sanctions on one or more Israeli battalions accused of human rights violations during operations in the occupied West Bank , according to a person familiar with the deliberations.

PEN America’s Fallout: The free expression group PEN America has canceled its 2024 literary awards ceremony following months of escalating protests over the organization’s response to the war in Gaza , which has been criticized as overly sympathetic to Israel.

Fears Over Iran Buoy Netanyahu: The Israeli prime minister lost considerable support after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. Tensions with Iran have helped him claw  some of it back.

A Surprising Rift: The Israel-Hamas war, which has roiled cultural and political institutions far beyond the Middle East, is causing divisions in a prominent Japanese American group .

Mobilizing the American Left: As the death toll in Gaza climbed, the pro-Palestinian movement grew into a powerful, if disjointed, political force in the United States . Democrats are feeling the pressure.


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