The Fear of Fearing Public Speaking

In this day and age, it seems like almost everyone is afraid of speaking in public. Whether this means a presentation, speech, or just asking a question in a relatively large group, many people dread stepping outside of their comfort zone and putting themselves in a position where they can potentially feel exposed.

There are dozens of tips and videos that claim to help you become a better, more confident public speaker, but do they really help, or are you just born with or without the anxiety of public speaking? One theory, according to, and Noah Zandan, is that we, as a human species have learned to fear speaking out in public. Some of the main reasons that can attribute to this fear come from our ancestors who lived during the ice age and dinosaur era. For instance, Zandan claims that, back in prehistoric times, if say, a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex were to come invade a group of our ancestors, we, as humans would be more comfortable, and feel as if we could take on the predator if we were able to stick together in a group. Therefore, the general theory is that, by speaking out in public, we are alienating ourselves and essentially making ourselves more vulnerable and susceptible to things such as abandonment and dissapproval.

Another theory, according to Zandan, from his blog on, tells us that, when we put ourselves in an instance where we are speaking in front of large audiences, or really anything that involves stepping outside of our comfort zones and speaking in public, that we become increasingly sensitive to certain emotions. One emotion that Zandan claims we are particularly responsive to is anger. One example backing up this theory is a study psychologist Matthias Wiesner did in 2009, where he gathered a group of participants, showed the participants certain images, and then recorded what type of response the images elicited from the participants. To conduct his study, Wiesner divided his participants into two groups; the first group was told they would have to give a speech, and then they were shown the images, and the second group was simply shown the images, with no mention of any type of public speaking. The response Wiesner found, was that, after being told they would have to give a speech, the first group became increasingly nervous when shown the images that contained anger in them, whereas the second group simply viewed the angry images as no different than the ones that were happy or sad. This study has helped to develop the theory that when we speak in public we are more apt to notice and become sensitive to individuals who are angry, simply because we are feeling very judged and as if we are not good enough.

But fear not, my fellow students, because these theories are only that, theories. Aside from that, they are only two of hundreds of theories out there which claim to have the answer as to why we feel nervous and anxious when faced with public speaking. Overall though, I wouldn’t worry too much about public speaking, after all, it’s not as if your speech will end the world if you don’t present it correctly.



Sources: Zandan, N. (2016). Why Do We Fear Public Speaking? Retrieved September 14, 2016, from

Picture: H. (2016). 27 Useful Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking | Brian Tracy. Retrieved September 15, 2016, from

4 thoughts on “The Fear of Fearing Public Speaking

  1. dff5115

    When ever i am told i have to give a speech especially with little notice i become instantly nervous. I think this has to do with me getting into my own head. Whenever i have to speak in front of a large group i am always nervous about what people are going to think. I have recently notice that when i speak in front of a group that my voice gets deeper than it usually is. I do not know what causes these but i think it has to do with me being nervous. I can relate to the main point in this post of not wanting to feel like you crowd is angry because when i speak i am always worried of unexpected questions that can make me look bad. I have found that the best way to prepare for a public speech is to be over prepared and to really know what your talking about and to be passionate about it.

  2. Casey Andrew Schaum

    Once I saw the title of this post, I knew I had to comment. When I learned that i had to take a public speaking lesson, I was slightly terrified. Luckily that was two years ago and since then I have grown as a public speaker. I have realized that it gets better with practice. It was interesting to hear that we might have learned to fear public speaking. As others said, I feel that cell phones do play a part in that. All in all, public speaking can be hard but everyone can master it. Here’s a video on some public speaking tips.

  3. Madison Taylor

    This post captivated my attention right away. Public speaking is my absolute least favorite thing to do in the entire world. When I took CAS here at PSU, I thought I was going to fail. However, I practiced each one of my speeches over and over again in an attempt to become more comfortable while speaking. My repeated practice did seem to help a lot, but I still tremble each time I stand at a podium to give a speech. You wrote about a topic that I find myself thinking about quite frequently, and the theory that we have learned to fear public speaking is very interesting to me. Here is an article by Forbes that describes how the fear of public speaking can actually be good for you.

  4. jcr5533

    I feel like lot of the reason we have a fear of public speaking is because of the way we most commonly communicate… our cell phones. Spending less time talking to people and more time on our cell phones has got to be a theory. I remember hearing it somewhere, but I can’t remember. Sorry I can’t link it, maybe you can find it if your interested in it?

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