Are you one of the many people who get butterflies in their stomach at the thought of giving a speech in front of an audience? You are not alone! Fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears shared by people around the world. This fear encompasses the fear of embarrassment, fear of saying something foolish, fear of being critiqued or ridiculed, and fear of sounding unintelligent, among others while speaking in public.
While it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous before giving a presentation, for some people, the fear can be so severe that it interferes with their ability to do their job or participate in other activities. If you fall into this category, you may be diagnosed with a specific phobia known as glossophobia, which is the fear of public speaking.
But why are so many of us afraid of public speaking? There are a number of theories, but it seems that a combination of factors can contribute, including genetics, past experiences, and personality type. And unfortunately, the more we worry about speaking in front of others, the more difficult it can become.
Here we’ll be sharing various fear of public speaking statistics to help you feel less alone and get motivated to make the most of your speech! If you’re a little nervous about giving a presentation or speech, this will be a lifesaver. And if you’re already a pro at public speaking—well, we still think this will help!
Fear of Public Speaking Statistics – Editor’s Pick
Fear of public speaking affects millions of people, and there are lots of statistics that show its effects. Below, we handpicked the top ones:
- According to estimates, around 20 million Americans have glossophobia.
- This phobia is one of the most prevalent and an issue for approximately 77% of the population.
- 90% of the glossophobia is caused by public speaking is triggered by poor preparation and lack of awareness about methods to manage it.
- The percentage of sufferers who seek professional help is relatively low, or only 8%.
- Confidence improves with age and helps with fear of public speaking.
- The annual costs of treating social disorders, including glossophobia, are between $42.3 billion and $46.6 billion.
Would you like to learn more about fear of public speaking, how common it is, and other interesting figures related to it? If so, make sure to scroll down!
General Fear of Public Speaking Stats and Facts
1. Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, is the greatest fear that humans can have.
Statistics emphasize that glossophobia has the highest rate of occurrence among phobias. It happens in three out of four people.
About 77% of the population has symptoms of anxiety caused by public speaking situations. This fear is more significant than the fear of spiders and death (19% fear of public speaking, 16% fear of death, and 13% fear of spiders).
2. At any given point, around 6% of the global population aged between 5 and 50 have a fear of speaking openly to others.
Around 20 million Americans, or about 6% of the population, say that they have at least one social phobia, including a fear of public speaking. According to a survey done in Canada, one-third of the respondents said that they deal with high levels of anxiety prior to speaking to crowds.
Some of their biggest worries causing this fear are “telling something embarrassing”, “struggling to speak”, and “forgetting what is that they wanted to say”. Therefore, an increasing percentage of men and women are trying to find solutions to this fear through hypnosis therapy, yoga, meditation, reading self-help books, etc.
3. Of all the people, 10% are terrified of public speaking.
According to Forbes statistics on fear of public speaking, about 10% of the population are people who enjoy speaking publicly and experience no unpleasant symptoms whatsoever. They actually feel the positive energy when in front of a big crowd.
The other group of 10% is people who are scared of public speaking and dread even the thought of it. These people go to extreme lengths to avoid such situations and will struggle with symptoms like anxiety, panic attacks, and nausea.
Those in the middle (the remaining 80%) are individuals who may get anxious, feel butterflies, or don’t sleep the night before the public speaking. However, they know they’ll go through it, even though speaking in front of a crowded room is not something they enjoy doing.
4. The costs of treatment of anxiety disorders, including glossophobia, are between $42.3 billion and $46.6 billion a year.
According to NCBI research, addressing anxiety disorders and phobias like the fear of public speaking is high. Figures estimate the annual costs between $42.3 billion and $46.6 billion. This is approximately a third of the total money spent on treating any mental health issue annually.
5. Education influences the rates of glossophobia.
The more educated a person is, the freer they may feel when speaking publicly. According to Gallup data on glossophobia, 24% of those who graduated college said they fear public speaking. By comparison, 52% of respondents who admitted having this issue had only a high school education or less.
6. The fear of speaking publicly has a negative impact on wages, job promotions, and college graduation.
Glossophobia influences social and professional areas of life and can prevent normal functioning if not addressed properly. Data shows that it has a 15% negative effect on getting promoted at work, 10% on wages, as well as a 15% impact on college graduation.
The good news is that as a soft skill, public speaking is taught and glossophobia can be treated by making appropriate changes in lifestyle. Some of the treatments include doing psychotherapy, relaxing, taking prescribed meds, as well as doing plenty of practice.
7. Glossophobia accounts for 19% of phobias and it’s the biggest majority of people with a phobia.
According to Advisory21 data, glossophobia is the top phobia in the world.
The top five phobias and their representations are as follows: public speaking and stage fright (19%), death and end of life (16%), spiders and arachnids creatures (13%), darkness and twilight (12%), and heights (11%). The other common phobias include people, flying, open spaces, thunder, and confined spaces.
Glossophobia is so common because speaking in front of an audience makes us susceptible to rejection, a fear that is carried onto us from our ancestors. Brain freeze is also frequent among individuals with fear of public speaking because the attention they’re getting from the audience in silence feels like rejection and judgment.
(National Social Anxiety Center, Advisory21)
8. It has a negative effect on mental and physical health.
People who suffer from anxiety disorders, including glossophobia, can experience a decline in their physical and mental health if the problem isn’t treated. Anxiety increases one’s chances of coronary illness by 26%. Moreover, the risk of dying after a heart attack increases to 48%.
Despite the negative impact of glossophobia on people’s lives, a small percentage of them, or only 8%, look for professional help. Professional advice often helps people become better at their jobs and daily lives and increases their confidence.
However, in the US, the percentage of people who seek help for social anxiety disorder is 36.9%. Managing this issue can also help with one’s glossophobia as they’re closely related.
9. Poor preparation before public speaking influences anxiety.
About 90% of the anxiety that people experience before a big event or a presentation in front of a crowd stems from insufficient preparation beforehand. For a person to experience less fear associated with public speaking, it’s pivotal to address the important aspects and maximize satisfaction.
According to Albert Mehrabian, a good presentation is 55% non-verbal communication, 38% voice, and 7% content. The organization also provides some tips on how to properly prepare for a presentation in order to manage your glossophobia. Some of them include dedicating 70% of one’s time to structuring the presentation script and adding stats and facts to increase audience retention.
(Albert Mehrabian – Silent Messages)
10. As the audience becomes engaged, the fear of public speaking becomes less daunting.
According to SalesCrunch research published before the company website was shut down, when presenters do all the talking without engaging the audience, their engagement rate drops by 14%.
This is why people with glossophobia are encouraged to find ways to interact with the audience.
Some ways to achieve engagement include asking questions, making suggestions, showing slides and images, using humor, etc. When the audience starts engaging and seems amused, the fear of public speaking tends to ease.
Public speaking is said to be the biggest type of social anxiety, and in 2000, it was concluded that 89.4% of people with some social anxiety disorder also suffer from glossophobia.
SADs are a subtype of anxiety disorder and an issue for 15 million adults in the US every year.
12. The symptoms of glossophobia can vary between different people
Glossophobia can cause different symptoms in different people. However, the most common ones are the following.
- Elevated Heart Rate – When one faces a perceived or real threat like a public speaking situation, this increase can be sudden and result in a spike in blood pressure and heart rate.
- Dry mouth – Often, people with glossophobia struggle with a sticky and dry mouth. This happens due to the low production of saliva by the salivary glands. Drinking water prior to public speaking and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can be helpful.
- Squeaky voice – When adrenaline and cortisol increase and flow throughout the body, the voice, among other processes, are spared the effects. When we feel stressed, the muscles we have around our larynx become tense, and this causes a squeaky voice.
- Shaking, trembling – When a person is anxious, like prior to a public speaking situation, the body may start to shake as a response. The muscles may feel weak, and you may experience lightheadedness, thinking you’ll faint.
- Profuse sweating – Our sweat prevents the body from overheating as the temperature of the body increases. During a stressful situation, either when we’re anxious or fearful, we will also sweat more to cool down. A person will have a glistening forehead, sweaty palms, and a sweaty back.
(Through Line Group, Psycom)
13. Four main factors contribute to glossophobia.
According to research explained in the Introduction to Rhetorical Communication, four main factors can boost or reduce one’s fear of public speaking. These are trait, context, audience, and situation. Namely, each of these can, individually or in combination with the other, make the speaker feel relaxed or anxious during a presentation.
That’s why it’s vital to understand these four and learn how to adapt to the situation in different scenarios. Some people prefer casual settings; others feel comfortable presenting to strangers, and so on.
(Introduction to Rhetorical Communication)
14. Anxiety, including that from public speaking, affects various aspects of one’s life.
A study conducted by SingleCare shows worrisome data on the effects anxiety, like the one from public speaking, has on one’s life.
Nearly two-thirds (61%) of respondents claimed that anxiety affects their sleep and 47% said they slept less when anxious. Other aspects that suffer due to anxiety, including fear of public speaking, are relationships (56%), appetite (32%), and the overall quality of life (29%).
15. The impairment resulting from glossophobia ranges from mild to serious.
The three severity stages are mild, moderate, and serious. Luckily for those suffering from fear of public speaking, most people, or 48.1%, deal with a mild impairment. Less than a third (30%) have a moderate impairment and only 21.9% have a serious impairment.
However, a serious impairment would mean that the person cannot fulfill their obligations at work, for example. Meaning, they can suffer serious consequences due to their glossophobia.
Fear of Public Speaking Statistics by Demographics
16. Women have a greater fear of public speaking than men.
Speaking in front of others seems less of a challenge for men than for women.
In one Gallup survey, it was discovered that only 37% of men said that they feared public speaking while this percentage was 44% in women. This may be closely linked to the fact that women tend to struggle with anxiety disorders at almost twice the rate noted in men.
Furthermore, women are more concerned about speaking in public than they are about death, a survey by Ripley’s Believe It or Not! revealed.
17. Women with anxieties such as glossophobia report more comorbidities than men.
A SingleCare study focused on anxieties like the fear of public speaking reveals interesting patterns when analyzing data by gender. Namely, 53% of women with anxieties have depression compared to 43% of men. Moreover, 30% of women have headaches and migraines, compared to 19% of men.
18. Public speaking fear rates differ among races.
A slight difference in terms of race is evident in the rates of glossophobia. In one NCBI poll, 34% of non-white respondents said they experience anxiety from public speaking. This percentage was higher in white respondents at 43%.
19. Glossophobia is America’s most common phobia.
The dread of public speaking is the biggest fear for Americans. About 25.3% stated that they feel anxiety from speaking in front of others. This fear seems to be more common than the fear of heights which came second, and the fear of bugs and insects, which came third.
Glossophobia isn’t exclusive to the US. Other countries also struggle with it-in a survey done in the UK by YouGov, more than 2,000 respondents were asked to rate the 13 most common phobias. The end results placed glossophobia in the high third place, after the fears of snakes and heights.
Moreover, in Sweden, social phobias are a problem for a total of 15.6% of their population. This issue affects 12.2% of males and 18.5% of females in the country.
(Washington Post; YouGov, NCBI)
20. Fear of public speaking gets less common with an increase in confidence and age.
Confidence seems to be an essential factor in people’s fear of public speaking. The more confident and prepared a person is before a public-speaking event, the lower the risk of experiencing unpleasant symptoms. And, it seems that confidence grows with age.
For instance, 69% of people over 45 or more felt pretty or very confident. By comparison, only 25% of those aged 16-24 felt confident. Hence, younger people are more likely to deal with glossophobia than those who have built their confidence for many years.
21. Many well-known individuals have had the fear of speaking in public.
Since high 77% of the population has symptoms of glossophobia, it’s no wonder that famous people aren’t immune to this fear. And this applies despite their profession, which often requires plenty of public appearances, public speeches, etc.
Politicians, actors, and even presidents throughout history have struggled with it. Some of them are Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Gandhi, Sigmund Freud, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. These celebrities often did a lot to avoid a public speaking situation and resorted to strategies to decrease and manage this fear.
We’ve now looked at some interesting fear of public speaking statistics. Overall, it seems that around 77% of people have some fear of public speaking. This fear can have a significant impact on people’s lives, preventing them from doing things like going for job interviews or giving presentations at work.
There are a number of different ways to overcome the fear of public speaking. Many people find that attending a Toastmasters club can help them to build their confidence and improve their public speaking skills. There are also a number of online resources and courses that can help people to overcome their fear.
If you suffer from a fear of public speaking, remember that you’re not alone. Thousands of other people also suffer from this same fear. But with some effort, you can overcome your fear and become a confident public speaker.