Do you happen to know what Glossophobia is? Possibly you have never heard the word itself, but you are almost certainly familiar with the condition. You may even suffer from it.
Glossophobia is a strong fear of public speaking. The term derives from the Greek words glossa (meaning tongue) and phobos (meaning fear or dread). (I guess glossophobia could just as easily have meant an aversion to French kissing, but that is a story for another day).
According to various sources as many as 75% - three out of every four people! – suffer from glossophobia; a condition that, for some, amounts to much more than just mere apprehension. It may, for example, include significant physical symptoms ranging from a dry mouth, perspiration and uncontrolled tremors to increased blood pressure and overwhelming sensations of anxiety and panic.
I would be lying if I suggested I have never experienced any of these symptoms when called upon to speak to a crowd. And indeed, curiously, some of my most challenging experiences have been in front of smaller audiences, including people I know well. But I have remained undeterred (to date) for a couple of reasons.
I have written in the Introduction to this site about the power to influence others, and its importance, in my eyes at least. Of course, every single one of our daily interactions with other human beings opens up such an opportunity. Do we use these opportunities as wisely as we might? Do we even carry with us, on a daily basis, the thought that we are, just as much as Kim Kardashian herself, social influencers? Because, whether we realise it or not, that’s exactly what we have always been, from the moment we could first communicate.
Sure, Kimmy has access to a far greater proportion of the population than most of us. But the principle remains the same. Everything we do, everything we say, everything we write or post, has the potential to influence those coming within the ambit of our physical and digital presence.
Which brings me back to public speaking.
For the majority of us, the making of a speech – be that at a wedding, a funeral, a birthday party, an awards night, or in the company of business colleagues – provides the chance for us to influence the thinking and, in some circumstances, perhaps even the behaviour, of many more people than would ordinarily be the case. Far from being occasions to shy away from, these are, it seems to me, events to embrace: whenever and wherever they present themselves.
The chance to explain, and assist understanding, to praise and honour, to express love and devotion, or to induce laughter, perhaps even tears, from your audience – be it a handful or a hall full – strikes me as something to rejoice in, not resist.
Within this section of The Mad Hatter’s Library you will find the transcript of some speeches I have made throughout the course of my life, and some I never did. I hope they encourage you to take your opportunity with both hands when next it comes.