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It’s no secret that public speaking is a major part of not only our careers, but our entire lives. No matter if we’re giving the most important presentation of our lives to an audience of thousands, or simply speaking with a small group of familiar clients, being able to talk clearly, powerfully, and without fear are major skills we simply cannot do without. I am a firm champion of the idea that public speaking anxiety can be targeted and tamed, and this month’s series has been dedicated to that idea. I believe that through a combination of mindfulness, cognitive restructuring, and diligent preparation can bring the strong emotions public speaking stirs up inside of us back down to Earth. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of statistics and shed light on the realities of public speaking anxiety. Beyond the numbers, we’ll explore the personal stories and experiences that make this fear so relatable. So, let’s embark on a journey of discovery and understanding as we unravel the statistics behind public speaking anxiety.

Is public speaking anxiety a common fear?

Public speaking anxiety is far from uncommon. In fact, it affects a significant portion of the population. Studies suggest that about 75% of individuals experience some degree of fear or anxiety when faced with speaking in public. So, if you find yourself trembling at the thought of addressing an audience, remember that you’re not alone—there are countless others who share your apprehension. Public speaking fears are very common, but it is how we harness the power inside of us to deal with it that determines success.

Interesting public speaking anxiety statistics:

The evidence is very clear: most people struggle with a fear of public speaking, sometimes for their entire lives. But riddle me this: if over 80% of adults have a fear of social situations, is everyone who is successful, charismatic, and brilliant on stage simply a member of the lucky 20% that has no fear of public speaking? I guarantee you that this is not the case. While yes, there are those rare individuals who simply feel at home on a stage, if you take a look at just how many successful leaders, business owners, and lecturers achieve career success, it’s impossible to believe that none of them struggle with at least some degree of public speaking fear. The secret sauce behind how these people achieve success is something I have talked about in great detail in my previous blog posts and courses, from harnessing mindfulness techniques, to crafting an ideal alter persona. I encourage you to give them a quick read, and think about how these approaches can transform your perspective on performance and public speaking.

What is glossophobia?

Public speaking anxiety is also known as glossophobia (literally: speaking fear), and it’s a very common phobia. A phobia is an overwhelming, unrealistic fear of an object, person, place, or situation, and they are sometimes classified as anxiety disorders. Depending on their severity, they can dictate how a person lives their lives, such as where they work, reside, or spend leisure time. Although most people suffer from a phobia to a certain degree, different forms of phobia can affect our daily lives in different ways. Howard E. Elwine, MD of Harvard Health Publishing beautifully describes how phobias are broken up into three distinct categories:
  • Specific or simple phobia: a phobia that is limited to a particular thing, place, or situation. For example, a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) but not a fear of crickets would be considered a very specific phobia limited to one type of animal. Or, a fear of riding on a plane but not a fear of traveling or a fear of heights. Uniquely, there appears to be a strong genetic component to specific phobias, but the evidence is still being collected.
  • Social phobia (now more commonly referred to as social anxiety disorders): These include fears of social situations, real or imagined, where the individual fears being judged, criticized, or humiliated. It may be limited to performing, where a person is perfectly fine chatting with strangers on the street but freezes up on a stage, or it can be general to any social situation.
Depending on just how much glossophobia impacts communication skills and general well-being, professional help from a licensed mental health provider may be appropriate. If someone struggles with public speaking anxiety on a daily basis — for example, because their job puts them in a position where they are constantly talking to new people — it benefits them to seek professional evaluation if their fear starts impacting their life.

What are the symptoms of glossophobia?

Glossophobia is part of social anxiety disorder, and just like any mental health disorder, the symptoms can range in severity from person to person. Some people shake while speaking, others freeze up. But because of how common public speaking anxiety is — a large percentage of the population struggles with it — we have some common symptoms that typically appear in most people.

These symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Shaking hands
  • Freezing
  • Forgetting words
  • Desire to escape or leave the situation
  • Feeling hot
  • Difficulty concentrating
Speaking in public, whether to an audience or to strangers, can make these symptoms intensify depending on how familiar you are with the space or the audience. It is perfectly normal to be afraid, but these symptoms can make it difficult to engage in the positive self talk and outward focus that public speaking requires. My last blog post gave you actionable tips on breaking out of this cycle of anxiety, and I encourage you to check it out.

Does education affect glossophobia rates?

It is difficult to draw a concrete relationship between education level and glossophobia rates, but a correlation does appear to exist. Recently, one poll mentioned that over 24% of college graduates expressed a fear of public speaking, while 52% of people from the same poll with only a high school diploma reported having that same fear. Again, this is a correlation but we cannot simply say that the more traditionally educated you are, the more comfortable you are speaking in public. There are many factors involved when you look at demographic information that are not always obvious: for example, a person who graduated college may have had more opportunities to speak in public by taking a communications class. If you don’t have a college degree, this doesn’t mean you are doomed to fail at public speaking. There is more than one way to educate yourself. A degree is not a symbol of your confidence, aptitude, or communication skills, and whether education affects glossophobia rates is a developing question that needs more research.


Behind the statistics of public speaking anxiety lie stories of personal struggles, missed opportunities, and untapped potential. It’s important to remember that statistics are more than just numbers—they represent real individuals navigating their way through the fear and finding their voices. So, if you find yourself grappling with public speaking anxiety, know that you are part of a vast community working towards overcoming this fear. Together, let’s embrace the challenge, support one another, and unlock the power within us to communicate confidently and authentically.

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