Speech anxiety in the communication classroom during the covid-19 pandemic: supporting student success.

Suzy Prentiss

  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, United States

A wealth of literature clearly supports the presence of speech anxiety in the communication classroom, especially in those classes with a focus on public speaking and/or presentations. Over the years, much work has been done on intentional approaches to empowering students to effectively manage their speech anxiety in face-to-face, hybrid, and online communication courses. These research-based findings have led to best practices and strong pedagogical approaches that create a supportive classroom culture and foster engaged learning. Then COVID-19 appeared, and things changed. In an effort to keep campuses safe and save the spring semester, everyone jumped online. Many instructors and students were experiencing online education for the first time and, understandably, anxiety exploded. Between the uncertainty of a global pandemic, the unchartered territory of a midterm pivot to fully online education, and the unknown effects of the situation on our educational system, our stress levels grew. Public speaking and presentations took on new meaning with Zoom sessions and webcams and our speech anxiety, undoubtedly, grew, as well. Reflecting upon the scholarship of the past with an appreciation of our present situation and looking toward the future, we will curate a list of best practices to prepare students to effectively manage their speech anxiety with agency, ability, and confidence.


It is impossible for Isabella to catch her breath. Her pulse is racing, she is flushed, and her thoughts are a jumbled mess. She is desperately trying to remember her plan, slow her breathing and visualize success but it is impossible to do anything but panic. She is convinced she will embarrass herself and fail her assignment. Why had she postponed taking her public speaking class? Yes, it would have been bad in a “normal” term but now, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, she had to take the class online. Though it seems unimaginable that the class could be more terrifying, add Zoom sessions, internet connection issues, and little engagement with her teacher or classmate and Isabella’s out of control speech anxiety is completely understandable . If you have been in a college classroom, most likely, you have had to deliver a presentation, lead a discussion, or share a poster presentation. If so, you know what speech anxiety is like. Most of us have experienced the racing heart rate, difficulty concentrating and sensory overload characteristic of speech anxiety ( Dwyer, 2012 ). For some of us, like Isabella, the speech anxiety is almost debilitating. Even if you are one of the rare people who does not experience speech anxiety, you probably witnessed your classmates struggle with the stress, worry and insecurity caused by speech anxiety. It was prevalent before the arrival of COVID-19 and now with the stressors associated with the pandemic, virtual learning, and social distancing it will most likely increase. Fortunately, we have the research, resources, and resolve to intentionally craft classroom culture that will support communication success.

Meeting the Challenges of COVID-19

In the early spring of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the United States, and required an unprecedented mid-term pivot. Classes rapidly moved from face-to-face instruction to online platforms in days. Teachers who had never taught online were learning while teaching, managing that additional workload while trying to stay connected with students who were worried and often overwhelmed. In addition to the public and personal health concerns of the virus, there were worries about online learning, the economy, and mental health. The bright spot was that in so many classes, the connections had been established before the pivot and so teachers and students were able to engage with familiar people in new ways. It was not an ideal situation but there was a sense that we were all in this together.

The fall of 2020 found many institutions of higher education and their faculty, staff, and students once again engaged in online instruction and it looks like it will be that way for the near future. We were faced with the new challenge of creating supportive and engaging class spaces completely virtual (in many cases) or in hybrid form with some classes combining online coursework with limited in-person instruction. Experience taught us that our students were speech anxious and that we needed to intentionally design safe and engaging spaces to support their success even before the arrival of COVID-19. Our challenge was to adopt a new skillset and look to the online learning community for resources, suggestions, and best practices.

Pandemic Pedagogy

Articles and emerging research on the response to the pandemic at the institutional, classroom, and individual level provide a glimpse into how we can craft virtual classroom spaces that support learning while meeting the needs created by COVID-19. Common themes for solid pandemic pedagogy include a focus on student mental health and well-being ( Gigliotti, 2020 ; Burke, 2021 ), an appreciation of technology challenges and access issues ( Turner et al., 2020 ; Burke, 2021 ; Singh, 2021 ), and a commitment to engaged teaching and learning ( Turner et al., 2020 ; Jenkins, 2021 ; Lederman, 2021 ). The fundamentals of good teaching are the same regardless of the modality and the foundational pedagogical practices are also similar, yet the primary difference is that solid online education has been designed for a virtual modality, not adapted to fit it (Kelly and Westerman, 2016 ). How can we craft safe and supportive online and virtual spaces for students to find, develop, and then actively share? A good place to start is with wayfinding which can “reinforce ways of knowing and problem solving,” ( Petroski and Rogers, 2020 , p. 125). Wayfinding supports efficacy and empowerment while meeting the challenges of pandemic pedagogy and can be incorporated into online communication classes to reduce speech anxiety and build classroom culture.

Speech Anxiety

The fear of public speaking, known as glossophobia, is a common and real form of anxiety ( Sawchuk, 2017 ) affecting as much as 75% of the population ( Black, 2019 ). In the scholarly literature, it is usually referred to as communication anxiety, communication apprehension, or communication avoidance ( Richmond and McCroskey, 1998 ). In more popular sources, such as Harvard Management Communication Letter, it has been called stage fright ( Daly and Engleberg, 1999 ) and speech anxiety ( Getting over speech anxiety, 2001 ). In this work, we will refer to it as speech anxiety as that term most closely targets the experience we are exploring.

Regardless of the label, it is our innate survival mode of flight, fight, or flee in the face of imminent (real or perceived) danger ( Thomas, 1997 ; Dwyer, 1998 ). Our mind feels a threat from a public speaking situation and our body responds accordingly. Common symptoms can include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing; excessive perspiration, skin flush or blush; shaky voice; trembling hands and feet; or dry mouth and nausea ( Thomas, 1997 ; Dwyer, 1998 ; Black, 2019 ).

There are many tips and techniques that can help those with speech anxiety manage their symptoms and communicate effectively across a variety of modalities. Some common strategies include relaxation, visualization, cognitive restructuring, and skills training ( Motley, 1997 ; Thomas, 1997 ; Richmond and McCroskey, 1998 ; Dwyer, 2012 ).

(1) Typical relaxation tips can include mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, listening to music, and taking long walks,

(2) Visualization involves inviting the speaker to imagine positive outcomes like connecting with their audience, making an impact, and sharing their presentation effectively ( Thomas, 1997 ; Dwyer, 1998 ). It replaces much of the negative self-talk that tends to occur before a speech opportunity and increases our anxiety.

(3) Cognitive restructuring is a more advanced technique with the goal “to help you modify or change your thinking in order to change your nervous feelings,” ( Dwyer, 2012 , p. 93). In essence, it involves replacing negative expectations and anxious feelings about public speaking opportunities with more positive and self-affirming statements and outlooks.

(4) Skills training is what we do in our classrooms and during professional workshops and trainings. It can include exploring speech anxiety and discussing how common it is as well as ways to effectively manage it ( Dwyer, 2012 ). It also involves analysis of the component parts, such as delivery and content ( Motley, 1997 ) practicing and delivering speeches in low stakes assignments, collaborating with classmates, and engaging in active listening ( Simonds and Cooper, 2011 ).

Ideally, solid skills training introduces the other techniques and encourages individuals to experiment and discover what works best for them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to speech anxiety.

Classroom Culture

According to the Point to Point Education website, “Classroom culture involves creating an environment where students feel safe and free to be involved. It’s a space where everyone should feel accepted and included in everything. Students should be comfortable with sharing how they feel, and teachers should be willing to take it in to help improve learning,” ( Point to Point Education, 2018 , paragraph 2). Regardless of subject matter, class size, format, or modality, all college classes need a supportive and engaging climate to succeed ( Simonds and Cooper, 2011 ). Yet having a classroom culture that is supportive and conducive to lowering anxiety is especially critical in public speaking courses ( Stewart and Tassie, 2011 ; Hunter et al., 2014 ). Faculty are expected to engage and connect with students and do so in intentional, innovative, and impactful ways. These can be simple practices, like getting to know students quickly and referring to them by their preferred name, such as a middle name or shortened first name ( Dannels, 2015 ), or more elaborate practices like incorporating active learning activities and GIFTS (Great Ideas for Teaching Students) throughout the curriculum ( Seiter et al., 2018 ). We want to create a positive and empowering classroom climate that offers equitable opportunities for all students to succeed. As educators, we can infuse empathy, spontaneity, and equality into our pedagogy while being mindful of different learning styles and committed to supporting diversity and inclusion ( Simonds and Cooper, 2011 ; Dannels, 2015 ). Furthermore, our communication classrooms need to be intentional spaces where challenges, such as anxiety disorders, mental health issues, learning disabilities and processing issues, are supported and accommodated ( Simonds and Hooker, 2018 ).

Ideally, we want to cultivate a classroom culture of inquiry, success, and connection. We also want to foster immediacy, the “verbal and nonverbal communication behaviors that enhance physical and psychological closeness,” ( Simonds and Cooper, 2011 , p. 32). Multiple studies support that teachers who demonstrate immediate behaviors are regarded as more positive, receptive to students, and friendly ( Simonds and Cooper, 2011 ). As teachers and scholars, we want to make a positive impact. Dannels (2015) writes that “teaching is heart work,” (p. 197) and she is right. It demands an investment of our authentic selves to craft a climate of safety and support where comfort zones are expanded, challenges are met, and goals are reached.

Educators need to be mindful of and responsive to the challenges COVID-19 presents to the health and well-being of our students, colleagues, and communities. In May of 2020, the National Communication Association (NCA) devoted an entire issue of its magazine to “Communication and Mental Health on campus 2020,” ( Communication and mental health on campus, 2020 ) highlighting the importance of this issue in our communication education spaces. Suggestions included learning more about mental health issues, engaging in thoughtful conversations, listening intentionally and actively, promoting well-being, and serving as an advocate and ally ( Communication and mental health on campus, 2020 ).

Scholarship about instructional communication, computer mediated communication and online education ( Kelly and Fall, 2011 ) offers valuable insights into effective practices and adaptations as we intentionally craft engaging and supportive spaces, so our students feel empowered to use their voice and share their story, even those with high speech anxiety. Instructional communication scholars focus on the effective communication skills and strategies that promote and support student success and an engaged learning environment ( Simonds and Cooper, 2011 ).

General strategies to teach effectively during the pandemic can be helpful and easily adaptable to our public speaking classrooms. Being flexible with assignments, deadlines and attendance can support student success and well-being as can creativity, engagement activities, and appealing to different learning styles and strengths ( Mahmood, 2020 ; Singh, 2021 ). It seems everyone is presenting virtually now, not just in our communication classrooms and that can take some getting used to. Educators can model and promote effective communication by being conversational and engaging and empathizing with the many challenges everyone is facing ( Gersham, 2020 ; Gigliotti, 2020 ; Jenkins, 2021 ; Singh, 2021 ).

This is also a great opportunity to innovate and cultivate a new classroom climate looking at communication in a new way for a new, digital age. During this time of change we can harness opportunities and encourage our students to develop the skillsets needed to communicate effectively during COVID-19 and after. Preparing them as digital communicators with a focus on transferable and applicable skills would help them in other classes and the job market ( Ward, 2016 ). Innovations to our courses, assessment tools, and learning outcomes can all happen now, too ( Ward, 2016 ). This is the time to innovate our course experiences across all modalities, reinvent what public speaking means in the modern, digital age and intentionally craft learning spaces for all students in which speech anxiety is intentionally addressed and effectively managed.

Best Practices

(1) Be flexible, as a matter of practice not exception. Speech anxiety was experienced by most students to some degree and was debilitating for some pre-pandemic and adds another layer of stress for students who are capable and resilient yet dealing with a lot. Podcasts are a common communication medium and may ease the anxiety of some students while highlighting the importance of word choice, rate, and tone. They also involve less bandwidth and technology and may be easier for many students to create.

(2) Reframe communication as a skill of the many, not just the few. Highly speech anxious students tend to believe they are the only ones who have a fear of presenting and only certain, confident individuals can present well. Neither of these are true. If we reframe presentations as conversations, demystify speech anxiety by discussing how common it is, and empower our students with the knowledge that they can effectively communicate, we can reduce anxiety, build confidence, and develop important skills that transcend disciplines and promote self-efficacy.

(3) Build a community of support and success. When we see our students as individuals, celebrate connection and collaboration, and actively engage to learn and grow, we co-create an impactful and empowering space that supports success not by being rigid and demanding but by being innovative, intentional, and inspiring.

Author Contributions

I am thrilled to contribute to this project and explore ways we can empower our students to effectively manage their speech anxiety and share their stories.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Keywords: speech anxiety, public speaking anxiety, instructional communication, communication pedagogy, Best Practices

Citation: Prentiss S (2021) Speech Anxiety in the Communication Classroom During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Supporting Student Success. Front. Commun. 6:642109. doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2021.642109

Received: 15 December 2020; Accepted: 08 February 2021; Published: 12 April 2021.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2021 Prentiss. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Suzy Prentiss, [email protected]

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Demographic predictors of public speaking anxiety among university students

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  • Published: 18 June 2024

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speech anxiety research

  • Tomáš Lintner   ORCID: 1 , 2 &
  • Boglárka Belovecová 1  

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Public speaking is a crucial component of many higher education courses and is essential for students’ academic performance and future career success. Despite its importance, public speaking anxiety is a common issue among higher education students, adversely impacting their learning. Addressing this anxiety through targeted interventions, especially for the most at-risk students, is vital. This study provides insights into the demographic predictors of public speaking anxiety, using a sample of 1745 students from a large public university in the Czech Republic. We employed the Personal Report of Confidence as a Speaker in a short form to assess public speaking anxiety levels. Our multivariate regression analysis identified gender, type of high school, and study level as significant predictors of public speaking anxiety, whereas age, nationality, and field of study were not. The study found that women, non-binary individuals, graduates of academic high schools, and bachelor’s students are more prone to public speaking anxiety. These findings highlight the need for targeted intervention and support strategies for students with higher levels of public speaking anxiety.

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Public Speaking Anxiety (PSA) is among the most widely faced anxieties among higher education students. Many higher education courses require students to give a speech or a presentation in front of their class as part of the assessment (Farris et al., 2013 ; Grieve et al., 2021 ). However, talking in front of many people is often a major cause of anxiety for students. In a nationally representative sample of Finnish university students, public speaking and presentation situations were reported to lead to the highest levels of anxiety among all learning situations among students (Pörhölä et al., 2019 ). In the US, 61% of college students were found to be fearful of public speaking, ranking second behind the fear of death (Dwyer & Davidson, 2012 ). A survey of students from two UK universities provided similar results, with 80% of students reporting anxiety from oral presentations (Russell & Topham, 2012 ). In a pilot study at Murdoch University comprising 16 students, half of them scored in the range of clinically significant anxiety (Martin-Lynch et al., 2016 ).

PSA refers to a pronounced fear or nervousness about speaking in front of an audience. It typically involves a concern about being judged or negatively evaluated by others, leading to feelings of discomfort, apprehension, or avoidance behaviors when faced with public speaking situations. It is a subtype of social anxiety, manifested as physiological, cognitive, and behavioral responding, including shaking, perspiration, increased heart rate, depressive thoughts, panic symptoms, and avoidance of stressor situations (Bodie, 2010 ).

PSA has negative consequences for both learning and later job success of higher education students. PSA impairs memory (Sawyer & Behnke, 1997 ) and depletes positive academic emotions, including motivation and engagement, making learning less effective (Pekrun et al., 2002 ). Public speaking is perceived by both students and alumni as one of the most important skills they should acquire (Farris et al., 2013 ) and a skill crucial for their job success (Johnson & Szczupakiewicz, 1987 ; Smith & Sodano, 2011 ; van Ginkel et al., 2019 ). Indeed, public speaking is an important skill for many job positions, and PSA was found to negatively influence career expectations of higher education students and to be related to students preferring back-office careers (Buser & Yuan, 2023 ).

Considering the widespread presence of PSA among higher education students and the importance of public speaking on students’ learning and careers, it is important to minimize the impact of PSA on student outcomes. An older meta-analysis conducted by Allen et al. ( 1989 ) revealed the effectiveness of various treatments for PSA, including cognitive modification, systematic desensitization, and skills training. Notably, the combination of all three treatments yielded the most substantial positive effects. In recent years, new approaches have emerged, offering cost-effective interventions through Internet-based self-help programs (Tillfors et al., 2008 ) and virtual reality (Lindner et al., 2019 ; Takac et al., 2019 ). The advent of these interventions has significantly reduced the overall cost of addressing PSA. Lim et al.’s ( 2023 ) meta-analysis underscores the efficacy of virtual reality in mitigating PSA. However, it also emphasizes the importance of integrating these novel approaches with traditional treatments rather than supplanting them entirely. Thus, despite the availability of affordable intervention programs, the vital component lies in complementing them with established treatments. It is therefore important to provide targeted and delivered intervention to the most at-risk student populations, underscoring the importance of examining the relationship between demographic characteristics of higher education students and their PSA.

Demographic predictors of PSA

As people age, their emotional regulation abilities tend to improve (Brummer et al., 2014 ; Santos et al., 2021 ). Therefore, it can be expected that older students would exhibit lower PSA due to their enhanced capacity to utilize effective coping mechanisms and maintain emotional stability in stressful situations. This thesis was supported by a study on general population, which found that after 18th year, there was a sharp decline in PSA, with a slight increase later in life (Caballo et al., 2008 ). On the other hand, several studies on student populations did not find age to have any effect on students’ PSA levels (Marinho et al., 2017 , 2019 ; Phillips et al., 1997 ).

The stereotype threat theory posits that individuals from groups targeted by negative stereotypes may be more inclined to embody those stereotypes. This theory is particularly pertinent to women, who frequently face doubts about their competence in various domains, including assertive, public roles (Laguía et al., 2022 ; Neal-Jackson, 2020 ; Seo & Lee, 2021 ). Awareness of these stereotypes, especially when combined with the heightened visibility of public speaking, can undermine women’s performance and exacerbate their PSA. Empirical evidence supports this notion, showing that women tend to report higher levels of PSA (Caballo et al., 2008 ; Hunter et al., 2014 ; Marinho et al., 2017 ; Perveen et al., 2018 ), demonstrate a reluctance to engage in public presentations (De Paola et al., 2021 ), and exhibit stronger physiological responses to public speaking (Carrillo et al., 2001 ) compared to men. Conversely, some studies have found no significant gender differences in self-reported PSA levels, in other studies, women and men were found to have the same self-reported PSA levels (Marinho et al., 2019 ; Phillips et al., 1997 ), and in one study, men were found to have higher PSA levels than women (Rodero & Larrea, 2022 ). None of the studies looked at PSA among non-binary students. However, research on general anxiety levels among non-binary people suggests that they experience greater anxiety levels compared to binary people (Butler et al., 2019 ; Thorne et al., 2020 ).


To our knowledge, no study has looked at the influence of students’ status as foreign students on their level of PSA. Yet, it may have a threefold influence on PSA. First, there is a probability that for foreign students the language of instruction is not their first language, with students’ level of language ability predicting their PSA (Kelsen, 2019 ). Second, foreign students generally have higher anxiety levels stemming from their relocation and adjustment (Khoshlessan & Das, 2019 ; Wang et al., 2023 ). Third, similarly to gender, foreign students often encounter negative stereotypes regarding their abilities (Quinton, 2019 ; Spencer-Rodgers, 2001 ), which could in turn exacerbate their PSA.

High school type

Based on Rachman’s ( 1980 ) theory of emotional processing, it can be expected that repeated exposure to public speaking would facilitate reduction of PSA. The type of high school may predict students’ PSA levels due to different exposure levels of public speaking in curricula of vocational and academic high schools. Academic high schools usually put higher emphasis on developing communication and public speaking skills than vocational high schools. In the Czech Republic, academic high schools provide more lessons focused on developing communication skills than vocational high schools (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic, 2024 ). Hence, academic high school graduates – after having more exposure to public speaking – may experience lower levels of PSA in higher education.

Study level

Similarly to the high school type, the level of study may predict students’ PSA levels due to different levels of exposure to public speaking, with students at higher levels having been exposed to public speaking more during their past academic experience. To this date, no study has looked at the influence of study level on students’ level of PSA.

Study field

Field of study can be a predictor of students’ PSA if certain fields offer more exposure to public speaking than others. Humanities and social sciences often emphasize argumentation and presentation as integral components of the curriculum, potentially providing students with more opportunities to develop comfort and proficiency in public speaking. This contrasts with the natural sciences, where the curriculum may prioritize written communication and technical proficiency, possibly resulting in less frequent engagement with public speaking tasks. So far, a single study looked at the effect of the field of study on students’ PSA levels – finding no effect (Marinho et al., 2017 ).

Present study

While PSA among higher education students is widespread, research on demographic predictors of PSA is limited and the findings are mixed. Previous research on demographic predictors of PSA among higher education students does not provide a coherent picture of which groups of students are most at-risk of having PSA. Findings on gender are mixed, research on non-binary students is nonexistent, and several theoretically important demographic characteristics have not been examined.

In the present study, we aim to fill the research gap by investigating six demographic predictors of PSA among higher education students – age, gender, nationality, high school type, study level, and field of study – aiming to provide a clearer picture of who the most at-risk of PSA students are. We work with a rich sample of students from a single university in the Czech Republic. Our study provides a significant contribution to the existing body of knowledge on PSA, offering practical implications for educators, administrators, and mental health professionals working within academic settings. We address the question “How do demographic factors influence PSA among higher education students?” Based on the outlined theories and previous research, we test the following hypotheses:

H1 : PSA decreases with age.

H2 : PSA is higher among women and non-binary students.

H3 : PSA is higher among non-Czech students.

H4 : PSA is higher among vocational high-school graduates.

H5 : PSA decreases with high study levels.

H6 : PSA is higher among natural sciences students.

We developed an online questionnaire consisting of several demographic items and items to assess students’ level of PSA. The demographic items consisted of questions on age (continuous scale), gender (categorical: man, woman, non-binary), nationality (open-ended), type of high school from which they graduated (categorical: vocational/academic), study level (categorical: bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral; if studying at multiple levels simultaneously, we asked for the highest), and field of study (open-ended). To assess the level of students’ PSA, we used a short form of the Personal Report of Confidence as a Speaker (PRCS). Originally created by Gilkinson ( 1942 ) as a 104-item paper-and-pencil measure, it was revised by Paul ( 1966 ) into a 30-item true–false format, and finally shortened by Hook et al. ( 2008 ) into a 12-item true–false format with a single factor structure. The PRCS is one of the most frequently used self-report questionnaires on PSA. The short form of the PRCS has demonstrated evidence of convergent validity with measures of anxiety, social performance anxiety, public and private self-consciousness, and shyness, and it demonstrated very good reliability (Hook et al., 2008 ). The short form of the PRCS includes straightforwardly worded items focusing on both physiological and emotional experiences when giving a public speech. The sum of the “true” statements results in the PSA score. A university-based language specialist assisted in translating the questionnaire into Czech. Before administering the questionnaire, we consulted with four university students, including two for whom Czech was not their first language, to assess whether the translation resulted in clear and comprehensible items. The four students confirmed that the item wording was clear. Both English and Czech versions of the instrument are available as Supplementary Information 1 . We checked the instrument’s structural validity and reliability with a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), which confirmed the instrument’s single factor structure, and it showed good reliability with McDonald’s ω t  = 0.85. Full CFA results are available as Supplementary Information 2 .

We used exclusively a Czech version of the questionnaire because most of the student body could understand Czech. The non-Czech speaking students were part of academic programs delivered entirely in English. The dynamics of PSA for students studying English programs was likely to be different, possibly mitigated by the consistency of language use in their academic environment. Therefore, we focused on those students who could understand Czech (both Czech and non-Czech) to ensure a homogenous assessment of the influence of nationality on PSA.

Sample and procedure

We conducted our research at Masaryk University in Brno, the Czech Republic, a large public university hosting many foreign students. Masaryk University was an ideal location for our study due to its emphasis on student oral presentations as a common component of teaching, assessment, and its emphasis on student-based collaborative teaching, as outlined in the University’s Strategic Plan for 2021–2028 (Masaryk University, 2021 ). Hence, our findings should be applicable to similar higher-education contexts with public speaking being a common part of student lives. We aimed to collect data from as many Masaryk University students as possible with diverse demographic characteristics. Data collection occurred from November 3rd to 17th, 2022, in the middle of the Fall semester. Initially, we invited University students to complete the questionnaire via the University’s online information system; all students logging into the system saw our call for participation as an advertisement. Simultaneously, we posted our call for participation on several Masaryk University student-run Facebook and Instagram pages and groups. After the first week of data collection, noting underrepresentation of doctoral students in our sample, we sent an email to two hundred doctoral students from all faculties at random, asking them to complete the questionnaire.

Since the items on nationality and field of study were open-ended, we coded them into two categories to allow for statistical analysis: Czech and non-Czech. Most non-Czech students were Slovak, given Masaryk University’s popularity among Slovak students. Considering the historical union of the Czech Republic and Slovakia before 1993 and the similarity of the Czech and Slovak languages, we performed a sensitivity analysis with three categories of nationality – Czech, Slovak, and other – in addition to the main analysis, to control for the possibility that Slovak students might be very similar to Czech ones while differing from other nationalities. The sensitivity analysis yielded the same results as the main analysis; therefore, we report only the main analysis with two categories: Czech and non-Czech students. The results of the sensitivity analysis are available as Supplementary Information 3 . We coded the field of study into three categories: social sciences and humanities (SOC-HUM), natural sciences and medicine (NAT-MED), and those who studied both of the aforementioned categories (both).

Table 1 shows the descriptive statistics of the sample compared to the University. Our sample covered 5.40% of all Masaryk University students and was diverse based on all observed demographic characteristics. We had a majority of women in terms of gender, Czech students as the majority nationality, students from vocational high schools as the predominant educational background, those pursuing bachelor’s degrees as the leading level of education, and students in social sciences and humanities as the primary fields of study. We conducted a series of χ 2 tests to assess if the distribution of demographic characteristics in our sample significantly differed from that of the University, comparing the distributions of gender, nationality, study level, and field of study. Information on age and high school type, as well as non-binary persons, was not available from the University. Despite our best efforts, our sample differed in the distribution of all available demographic characteristics from the University, with all p-values from the χ 2 tests being < .01. Therefore, we decided to employ a weighting procedure aiming to make our sample as representative of the entire University student population as possible and to enhance the generalizability of our findings. For each student in our sample, we computed weights as the product of the ratios of population to sample proportions for each characteristic. This method ensured that individuals from under-represented groups were given higher weights while over-represented groups were assigned lower weights. We then normalized the calculated weights to ensure their sum equaled the total number of observations in our sample, preserving the overall sample size in weighted analyses. As the distribution of non-binary persons at the University was unknown, we kept their weights at 1. Following the weighting procedure, our sample was largely representative of the University population in terms of nationality, study level, and field of study.

Data analysis

To test our hypotheses and assess how students’ demographic characteristics predicted their PSA scores, we applied a multivariate regression analysis – a statistical technique allowing simultaneous examination of the relationship between multiple predictor variables and a dependent variable. By including several predictors in the model, we controlled for potential confounding variables. We adopted a theory-driven approach to model development, instead of relying on forward or backward selection. By grounding our model in theory, we ensured that each variable included is interpretable and relevant to the phenomenon under study. To counter the multiple hypothesis testing problem, we employed the Benjamini–Hochberg procedure (Benjamini & Hochberg, 1995 ), which specifically controls for the false rate discovery.

Comparing students’ PSA scores shows differences based on several demographic characteristics. Table 2 presents descriptive statistics, and Fig. 1 depicts plots of students’ PSA scores in relation to their demographic characteristics. Our analysis found that age is negatively correlated with PSA scores. Among the gender categories, men had the lowest PSA scores, with women scoring nearly 1.5 times higher and non-binary individuals almost twice as high as men. The data showed no differences between Czech and non-Czech students. Students who graduated from academic high schools exhibited somewhat higher PSA scores compared to those from vocational high schools. Doctoral students had the lowest PSA scores, with master’s and bachelor’s students scoring approximately twice as high as doctoral students. Finally, students in the social sciences and humanities (SOC-HUM) displayed slightly higher PSA scores than those in natural sciences and medicine (NAT-MED) and students studying both fields.

figure 1

Plots of the students’ PSA scores related to their demographic characteristics

The regression analysis suggests that the only demographic characteristics significantly predicting students’ PSA scores were gender, high school, and study level. Table 3 shows the results of the regression analysis. Age was not a significant predictor of PSA after controlling for study level, hence, we do not confirm H1. On the other hand, we confirmed H2. Gender emerged as the strongest predictor among the observed characteristics, with women having significantly higher PSA than men and non-binary students exhibiting the highest PSA levels among the gender categories. We found no evidence for H3, with nationality not predicting students’ PSA scores. We found an opposite direction for H4 than we expected. High school type significantly predicted PSA, but with graduates from academic high schools showing higher PSA levels than those from vocational schools. Study level was a significant predictor as well – confirming H5 – with master’s students showing significantly lower PSA than bachelor’s, and doctoral students having the lowest PSA among the groups. We found no evidence for H6, with field of study not predicting students’ PSA scores. Our model explained over 14% of the variability in students’ PSA scores.

Our findings contribute new perspectives to the body of research on PSA in higher education students. By confirming that several demographic characteristics significantly predict students’ levels of PSA, our study identifies the most at-risk populations. This understanding is crucial for developing targeted interventions and support mechanisms tailored to the needs of these groups, aiming to enhance their academic experience and overall well-being.

We support the thesis present in some previous research that women have higher PSA levels than men (Caballo et al., 2008 ; Hunter et al., 2014 ; Marinho et al., 2017 ; Perveen et al., 2018 ). Our study adds a new dimension by including non-binary students – a group so far overlooked in PSA research and our results indicate that non-binary students experience higher PSA levels than both men and women. Building on the insights provided by stereotype threat theory (Laguía et al., 2022 ; Neal-Jackson, 2020 ; Seo & Lee, 2021 ), our findings suggest that the heightened PSA levels observed in women and even more so in non-binary students may be partly attributed to the pervasive influence of societal stereotypes and expectations. Women often confront stereotypes questioning their assertiveness and competence, particularly in public and professional domains. This societal backdrop may intensify the pressure and anxiety associated with public speaking, as women may fear that their performance will reinforce these negative stereotypes, leading to heightened PSA. For non-binary students, the situation seems to be compounded by additional layers of visibility and vulnerability. Non-binary individuals navigate a social landscape where their gender identity itself is often misunderstood or invalidated, placing them at an increased risk of experiencing stereotype threat not just regarding their competence, but their identity as well. The lack of representation and acknowledgment of non-binary individuals in many social spheres, including education, may further exacerbate this issue, making public speaking a potentially more distressing experience for them compared to both men and women.

Our findings are in line with previous research, indicating that increasing age does not necessarily lead to lower levels of PSA among students (Marinho et al., 2017 , 2019 ; Phillips et al., 1997 ). Contrary to expectations that older students might benefit from enhanced emotional regulation skills, our results suggest that the level of study serves as a more significant predictor of lower PSA. This highlights the pivotal role of university exposure to public speaking in mitigating anxiety, suggesting that structured opportunities to engage in public speaking within the university curriculum may have a more direct impact on reducing PSA than the gradual increase in emotional regulation typically associated with aging.

An intriguing finding of our study is the higher levels of PSA among students who graduated from academic track high schools, as opposed to those from vocational backgrounds. This contrasts with the expectation that more exposure to public speaking during high school would be related to lower PSA levels in higher education. Two reasons might account for this phenomenon. First, academic track schools often have a strong focus on academic achievement and performance, which may inadvertently heighten performance-related anxieties, including public speaking. Second, it may be a case of self-selection bias when students who choose academic tracks may inherently have different personality traits or anxiety levels compared to those who opt for vocational tracks, potentially predisposing them to higher levels of PSA. The impact of the type of high school on PSA might also vary across different educational systems and cultures. In regions where academic high schools place a greater emphasis on public speaking as part of the curriculum, the relationship between high school type and PSA might differ.

Our analysis suggests that nationality and field of study do not significantly contribute to variations in PSA among higher education students. This finding may suggest that PSA transcends cultural and disciplinary boundaries, possibly indicating that PSA is a universal experience, deeply rooted in the fear of judgment or failure in front of peers, rather than being significantly influenced by cultural or academic differences.


While our study offers important insights into public speaking anxiety, it is important to acknowledge its limitations related to the scope of the sample and language inclusivity. We conducted our research at a single university in the Czech Republic. While this provided a rich and detailed dataset from the institution, it limits the generalizability of our results. In conducting this study through an online questionnaire, it is important to recognize potential biases that may have impacted the findings. There is a possibility of self-selection bias, wherein the individuals who chose to respond to the questionnaire might differ in their PSA levels from those who did not participate. This bias could occur if, for example, students who experience higher levels of public speaking anxiety are either more likely to respond due to a stronger engagement with the subject, or less likely due to avoidance tendencies. Our analysis included non-binary students; however, the results concerning this group should be interpreted with caution due to the relatively low number of non-binary participants in our sample. Additionally, we were unable to apply weighting for these participants, as their actual distribution within the university population is unknown. We have covered a series of theoretically relevant demographic predictors; however, we cannot rule out the possibility that we missed some crucial ones which might change our estimates. Finally, the questionnaire was administered exclusively in Czech, which potentially excluded a significant portion of the university’s international students who were not proficient in the language.


Our research has implications for both practice and future research. Our findings underscore the necessity of targeted intervention and support strategies for students with higher PSA levels – women, non-binary persons, those from academic high school backgrounds, and bachelor’s students. With the availability of many low-cost interventions (Lindner et al., 2019 ; Takac et al., 2019 ; Tillfors et al., 2008 ), it is crucial that these interventions are delivered to the most at-risk student populations. The unexpected finding that graduates from academic high schools reported higher PSA challenges the assumption that early exposure to public speaking necessarily leads to lower PSA in higher education. This suggests a need for a reevaluation of how public speaking skills are taught at high schools. Understanding the processes by which students’ demographic characteristics affect their PSA could be enriched by employing qualitative or mixed-method research designs. To understand the evolution of PSA throughout the educational lifespan, longitudinal studies tracking students from high school through higher education could provide valuable insights into how and when interventions can be most effective.

Data availability

The data this work is based on are publicly available in a repository of Masaryk University at;lang=en .

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The data this work is based on were originally collected for a diploma thesis of the second author. This work was supported by the NPO ‘Systemic Risk Institute’ number LX22NPO5101, funded by European Union—Next Generation EU (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, NPO: EXCELES).

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speech anxiety research

The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 40%* of the population. The underlying fear is judgment or negative evaluation by others. Public speaking anxiety is considered a social anxiety disorder. * Gallup News Service, Geoffrey Brewer, March 19, 2001.

The fear of public speaking is worse than the fear of death

Evolution psychologists believe there are primordial roots. Our prehistoric ancestors were vulnerable to large animals and harsh elements. Living in a tribe was a basic survival skill. Rejection from the group led to death. Speaking to an audience makes us vulnerable to rejection, much like our ancestors’ fear.

A common fear in public speaking is the brain freeze. The prospect of having an audience’s attention while standing in silence feels like judgment and rejection.

Why the brain freezes

The pre-frontal lobes of our brain sort our memories and is sensitive to anxiety. Dr. Michael DeGeorgia of Case Western University Hospitals, says: “If your brain starts to freeze up, you get more stressed and the stress hormones go even higher. That shuts down the frontal lobe and disconnects it from the rest of the brain. It makes it even harder to retrieve those memories.”

The fight or flight response activates complex bodily changes to protect us. A threat to our safety requires immediate action. We need to respond without debating whether to jump out of the way of on oncoming car while in an intersection. Speaking to a crowd isn’t life threatening. The threat area of the brain can’t distinguish between these threats.

Help for public speaking anxiety

We want our brains to be alert to danger. The worry of having a brain freeze increases our anxiety. Ironically, it increases the likelihood of our mind’s going blank as Dr. DeGeorgia described. We need to recognize that the fear of brain freezing isn’t a life-or-death threat like a car barreling towards us while in a crosswalk.

Change how we think about our mind going blank.

De-catastrophize brain freezes . It might feel horrible if it happens in the moment. The audience will usually forget about it quickly. Most people are focused on themselves. We’ve handled more difficult and challenging situations before. The long-term consequence of this incident is minimal.

Leave it there . Don’t dwell on the negative aspects of the incidents. Focus on what we can learn from it. Worry that it will happen again will become self-fulfilling. Don’t avoid opportunities to create a more positive memory.

Perfectionism won’t help . Setting unachievable standards of delivering an unblemished speech increases anxiety. A perfect speech isn’t possible. We should aim to do our best instead of perfect.

Silence is gold . Get comfortable with silence by practicing it in conversations. What feels like an eternity to us may not feel that way to the audience. Silence is not bad. Let’s practice tolerating the discomfort that comes with elongated pauses.

Avoidance reinforces . Avoiding what frightens us makes it bigger in our mind. We miss out on the opportunity to obtain disconfirming information about the trigger.

Rehearse to increase confidence

Practice but don’t memorize . There’s no disputing that preparation will build confidence. Memorizing speeches will mislead us into thinking there is only one way to deliver an idea. Forgetting a phrase or sentence throw us off and hastens the brain freeze. Memorizing provides a false sense of security.

Practice with written notes. Writing out the speech may help formulate ideas. Practice speaking extemporaneously using bullet points to keep us on track.

Practice the flow of the presentation . Practice focusing on the message that’s delivered instead of the precise words to use. We want to internalize the flow of the speech and remember the key points.

Practice recovering from a brain freeze . Practice recovery strategies by purposely stopping the talk and shifting attention to elsewhere. Then, refer to notes to find where we left off. Look ahead to the next point and decide what we’d like to say next. Finally, we’ll find someone in the audience to start talking to and begin speaking.

Be prepared for the worst . If we know what to do in the worst-case scenario (and practice it), we’ll have confidence in our ability to handle it. We do that by preparing what to say to the audience if our mind goes blank. Visualizing successful recovery of the worst will help us figure out what needs to be done to get back on track.

Learn to relax

Remember to breathe . We can reduce anxiety by breathing differently. Take slow inhalations and even slower exhalations with brief pauses in between. We’ll be more likely to use this technique if practiced in times of low stress.

Speak slowly . It’s natural to speed up our speech when we are anxious. Practice slowing speech while rehearsing. When we talk quickly, our brain sees it is a threat. Speaking slowly and calmly gives the opposite message to our brain.

Make eye contact with the audience . Our nerves might tell us to avoid eye contact. Making deliberate eye contact with a friendly face will build confidence and slow our speaking.

Join a group . Practice builds confident in public speaking. Groups like Toastmasters International provide peer support to hone our public speaking skill. Repeated exposure allows us to develop new beliefs about our fear and ability to speak in public.

The fear of our mind going blank during a speech is common. Job advancement or college degree completion may be hampered by not addressing this fear.

Get additional practical suggestions on overcoming public speaking anxiety in this CNBC article by the director of NSAC Brooklyn, Chamin Ajjan, LCSW, A-CBT, CST.

How to Get Help for Social Anxiety

The National Social Anxiety Center (NSAC) is an association of independent Regional Clinics and Associates throughout the United States with certified cognitive-behavioral therapists (CBT) specializing in social anxiety and other anxiety-related problems.

Find an NSAC Regional Clinic or Associate which is licensed to help people in the state where you are located.

Places where nsac regional clinics and associates are based.

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10.1 Managing Public Speaking Anxiety

Learning objectives.

  • Discuss common sources of public speaking anxiety.
  • Identify strategies for addressing public speaking anxiety.
  • Employ strategies for addressing public speaking anxiety.

If you feel fear, anxiety, or discomfort when confronted with the task of speaking in front of an audience, you are not alone. National polls consistently show that public speaking is among Americans’ top fears (Bodie, 2010). Yet, since we all have to engage in some form of public speaking, this is a fear that many people must face regularly. Effectively managing speaking anxiety has many positive effects on your speech. One major area that can improve with less anxiety is delivery. Although speaking anxiety is natural and normal, it can interfere with verbal and nonverbal delivery, which makes a speech less effective. In this chapter, we will explore causes of speaking anxiety, ways to address it, and best practices of vocal and physical delivery.

Sources of Speaking Anxiety

Aside from the self-reported data in national surveys that rank the fear of public speaking high for Americans, decades of research conducted by communication scholars shows that communication apprehension is common among college students (Priem & Solomon, 2009). Communication apprehension (CA) is fear or anxiety experienced by a person due to real or perceived communication with another person or persons. CA is a more general term that includes multiple forms of communication, not just public speaking. CA can be further broken down into two categories. Trait CA refers to a general tendency to experience anxiety related to communication, in essence incorporating it into a person’s personality. State CA refers to anxiety related to communication that occurs in a particular situation and time (Bodie, 2010). Of college students, 15 to 20 percent experience high trait CA, meaning they are generally anxious about communication. Seventy percent of college students experience some trait CA, which means that addressing communication anxiety in a class like the one you’re taking now stands to benefit the majority of students (Priem & Solomon, 2009). Whether CA is a personal trait or not, we all occasionally experience state CA. Think about the jitters you get before a first date, a job interview, or the first day of school. The novelty or uncertainty of some situations is a common trigger for communication anxiety, and public speaking is a situation that is novel and uncertain for many.

Public speaking anxiety is a type of CA that produces physiological, cognitive, and behavioral reactions in people when faced with a real or imagined presentation (Bodie, 2010). Physiological responses to public speaking anxiety include increased heart rate, flushing of the skin or face, and sweaty palms, among other things. These reactions are the result of natural chemical processes in the human body. The fight or flight instinct helped early humans survive threatening situations. When faced with a ferocious saber-toothed tiger, for example, the body released adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones that increased heart rate and blood pressure to get more energy to the brain, organs, and muscles in order to respond to the threat. We can be thankful for this evolutionary advantage, but our physiology hasn’t caught up with our new ways of life. Our body doesn’t distinguish between the causes of stressful situations, so facing down an audience releases the same hormones as facing down a wild beast.


The root of public speaking anxiety is the fight or flight instinct that is triggered when we face a fear. While we can’t completely eliminate anxiety, we can change how we cognitively process it.

Practical Cures – Anxiety – CC BY 2.0.

Cognitive reactions to public speaking anxiety often include intrusive thoughts that can increase anxiety: “People are judging me,” “I’m not going to do well,” and “I’m going to forget what to say.” These thoughts are reactions to the physiological changes in the body but also bring in the social/public aspect of public speaking in which speakers fear being negatively judged or evaluated because of their anxiety. The physiological and cognitive responses to anxiety lead to behavioral changes. All these thoughts may lead someone to stop their speech and return to their seat or leave the classroom. Anticipating these reactions can also lead to avoidance behavior where people intentionally avoid situations where they will have to speak in public.

Addressing Public Speaking Anxiety

While we can’t stop the innate physiological reactions related to anxiety from occurring, we do have some control over how we cognitively process them and the behaviors that result. Research on public speaking anxiety has focused on three key ways to address this common issue: systematic desensitization, cognitive restructuring, and skills training (Bodie, 2010). In addition, it is important to address the physical manifestations of speaking anxiety.

Systematic Desensitization

Although systematic desensitization may sound like something that would be done to you while strapped down in the basement of a scary hospital, it actually refers to the fact that we become less anxious about something when we are exposed to it more often (Bodie, 2010). As was mentioned earlier, the novelty and uncertainty of public speaking is a source for many people’s anxiety. So becoming more familiar with public speaking by doing it more often can logically reduce the novelty and uncertainty of it.

Systematic desensitization can result from imagined or real exposure to anxiety-inducing scenarios. In some cases, an instructor leads a person through a series of relaxation techniques. Once relaxed, the person is asked to imagine a series of scenarios including speech preparation and speech delivery. This is something you could also try to do on your own before giving a speech. Imagine yourself going through the process of preparing and practicing a speech, then delivering the speech, then returning to your seat, which concludes the scenario. Aside from this imagined exposure to speaking situations, taking a communication course like this one is a great way to directly engage in systematic desensitization. Almost all my students report that they have less speaking anxiety at the end of a semester than when they started, which is at least partially due to the fact they were forced to engage with speaking more than they would have done if they weren’t taking the class.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring entails changing the way we think about something. A first step in restructuring how we deal with public speaking anxiety is to cognitively process through our fears to realize that many of the thoughts associated with public speaking anxiety are irrational (Allen, Hunter & Donohue, 2009). For example, people report a fear of public speaking over a fear of snakes, heights, financial ruin, or even death. It’s irrational to think that the consequences of giving a speech in public are more dire than getting bit by a rattlesnake, falling off a building, or dying. People also fear being embarrassed because they mess up or are evaluated negatively. Well, you can’t literally die from embarrassment, and in reality, audiences are very forgiving and overlook or don’t even notice many errors that we, as speakers, may dwell on. Once we realize that the potential negative consequences of giving a speech are not as dire as we think they are, we can move on to other cognitive restructuring strategies.

Communication-orientation modification therapy (COM therapy) is a type of cognitive restructuring that encourages people to think of public speaking as a conversation rather than a performance (Motley, 2009). Many people have a performance-based view of public speaking. This can easily be seen in the language that some students use to discuss public speaking. They say that they “rehearse” their speech, deal with “stage fright,” then “perform” their speech on a “stage.” I like to remind my students that there is no stage at the front of our classroom; it is a normal floor. To get away from a performance orientation, we can reword the previous statements to say that they “practice” their speech, deal with “public speaking anxiety,” then “deliver” their speech from the front of the room. Viewing public speaking as a conversation also helps with confidence. After all, you obviously have some conversation skills, or you wouldn’t have made it to college. We engage in conversations every day. We don’t have to write everything we’re going to say out on a note card, we don’t usually get nervous or anxious in regular conversations, and we’re usually successful when we try. Even though we don’t engage in public speaking as much, we speak to others in public all the time. Thinking of public speaking as a type of conversation helps you realize that you already have accumulated experiences and skills that you can draw from, so you aren’t starting from scratch.


Thinking of public speaking as a conversation with an audience rather than a performance for an audience can help reduce speaking anxiety.

The Open University – Speech – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Last, positive visualization is another way to engage in cognitive restructuring. Speaking anxiety often leads people to view public speaking negatively. They are more likely to judge a speech they gave negatively, even if it was good. They’re also likely to set up negative self-fulfilling prophecies that will hinder their performance in future speeches. To effectively use positive visualization, it’s best to engage first in some relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or stretching, which we will discuss more later, and then play through vivid images in your mind of giving a successful speech. This should be done a few times before giving the actual speech. Students sometimes question the power of positive visualization, thinking that it sounds corny. Ask an Olympic diver what his or her coach says to do before jumping off the diving board and the answer will probably be “Coach says to image completing a perfect 10 dive.” Likewise a Marine sharpshooter would likely say his commanding officer says to imagine hitting the target before pulling the trigger. In both instances, positive visualization is being used in high-stakes situations. If it’s good enough for Olympic athletes and snipers, it’s good enough for public speakers.

Skills Training

Skills training is a strategy for managing public speaking anxiety that focuses on learning skills that will improve specific speaking behaviors. These skills may relate to any part of the speech-making process, including topic selection, research and organization, delivery, and self-evaluation. Skills training, like systematic desensitization, makes the public speaking process more familiar for a speaker, which lessens uncertainty. In addition, targeting specific areas and then improving on them builds more confidence, which can in turn lead to more improvement. Feedback is important to initiate and maintain this positive cycle of improvement. You can use the constructive criticism that you get from your instructor and peers in this class to target specific areas of improvement. Self-evaluation is also an important part of skills training. Make sure to evaluate yourself within the context of your assignment or job and the expectations for the speech. Don’t get sidetracked by a small delivery error if the expectations for content far outweigh the expectations for delivery. Combine your self-evaluation with the feedback from your instructor, boss, and/or peers to set specific and measurable goals and then assess whether or not you meet them in subsequent speeches. Once you achieve a goal, mark it off your list and use it as a confidence booster. If you don’t achieve a goal, figure out why and adjust your strategies to try to meet it in the future.

Physical Relaxation Exercises

Suggestions for managing speaking anxiety typically address its cognitive and behavioral components, while the physical components are left unattended. As we learned earlier, we can’t block these natural and instinctual responses. We can, however, engage in physical relaxation exercises to counteract the general physical signs of anxiety caused by cortisol and adrenaline release, which include increased heart rate, trembling, flushing, high blood pressure, and speech disfluency.

I liken confronting the physical aspects of public speaking anxiety to chemical warfare. Some breathing and stretching exercises release endorphins, which are your body’s natural antidote to stress hormones. Deep breathing is a proven way to release endorphins. It also provides a general sense of relaxation and can be done discretely, even while waiting to speak. In order to get the benefits of deep breathing, you must breathe into your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle below your lungs that helps you breathe and stand up straight, which makes it a good muscle for a speaker to exercise. To start, breathe in slowly through your nose, filling the bottom parts of your lungs up with air. While doing this, your belly should pooch out. Hold the breath for three to five full seconds and then let it out slowly through your mouth. After doing this only a few times, many students report that they can actually feel a flooding of endorphins, which creates a brief “light-headed” feeling. I lead my class in breathing exercises before the first few days of speeches. Once you have practiced and are comfortable with the technique, you can do this before you start your speech, and no one sitting around you will even notice. You might also want to try this technique during other stressful situations. Deep breathing before dealing with an angry customer or loved one, or before taking a test, can help you relax and focus.


Discretely stretching your wrists and calf muscles is a good way to relieve anxiety and get your energy flowing while waiting to speak.

Public Domain Pictures – public domain.

Stretching is another way to quickly and effectively release endorphins. Very old exercise traditions like yoga, tai chi, and Pilates teach the idea that stretching is a key component of having a healthy mind and spirit. Exercise in general is a good stress reliever, but many of us don’t have the time or willpower to do it. We can, however, all take time to do some stretching. Obviously, it would be distracting for the surrounding audience if a speaker broke into some planking or Pilates just before his or her speech. Simple and discrete stretches can help get the body’s energy moving around, which can make a speaker feel more balanced and relaxed. Our blood and our energy/stress have a tendency to pool in our legs, especially when we’re sitting. The following stretch can help manage the physical manifestations of anxiety while waiting to speak. Start with both feet flat on the floor. Raise your back heels off the floor and flex and release your calf muscles. You can flex and release your calves once before putting your heels back down and repeating, or you can flex a few times on each repetition. Doing this three to five times should sufficiently get your blood and energy moving around. Stretching your wrists can also help move energy around in your upper body, since our huge amounts of typing and using other electronic controllers put a lot of stress on this intersection of muscles, tendons, and bones. Point one hand up at the wrist joint, like you’re waving at someone. Then use your other hand to pull, gently, the hand that’s pointing up back toward your elbow. Stop pulling once you feel some tension. Hold the hand there for a few seconds and release. Then point the hand down at the wrist joint like you’re pointing at something on the floor, and use the other hand to push the hand back toward your elbow. Again, stop pushing when you feel the tension, hold the stretch for a few seconds, and release. You can often do this stretch discretely as well while waiting to speak.

Vocal Warm-Up Exercises

Vocal warm-up exercises are a good way to warm up your face and mouth muscles, which can help prevent some of the fluency issues that occur when speaking. Newscasters, singers, and other professional speakers use vocal warm-ups. I lead my students in vocal exercises before speeches, which also helps lighten the mood. We all stand in a circle and look at each other while we go through our warm-up list. For the first warm-up, we all make a motorboat sound, which makes everybody laugh. The full list of warm-ups follows and contains specific words and exercises designed to warm up different muscles and different aspects of your voice. After going through just a few, you should be able to feel the blood circulating in your face muscles more. It’s a surprisingly good workout!

Sample Vocal Warm-Ups

  • Purse your lips together and make a motorboat sound. Hold it for ten seconds and repeat. “BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB.”
  • Clench your teeth and say, “N, N, N, N,” to stretch your cheek muscles.
  • Say “Mum” five times, and open your mouth and eyes wide each time you say it.
  • Say “Puh” five times, making sure to use your diaphragm to enunciate the h .
  • Say “Red Rover” ten times, overenunciating each r .
  • Say “Wilbur” ten times, overenunciating the w and r .
  • Say “Bumblebee” ten times, enunciating each b .
  • Say “Red letter, yellow letter” five times, making sure to distinctly pronounce each word.
  • Say “Selfish shellfish” five times, making sure to distinctly pronounce each word.
  • Say “Unique New York” five times, enunciating the q and k .

Top Ten Ways to Reduce Speaking Anxiety

As you can see in this section, there are many factors that contribute to speaking anxiety, and there are many ways to address it. The following is a list of the top ten ways to reduce speaking anxiety that I developed with my colleagues, which helps review what we’ve learned.

  • Remember, you are not alone. Public speaking anxiety is common, so don’t ignore it—confront it.
  • Remember, you can’t literally “die of embarrassment.” Audiences are forgiving and understanding.
  • Remember, it always feels worse than it looks.
  • Take deep breaths. It releases endorphins, which naturally fight the adrenaline that causes anxiety.
  • Look the part. Dress professionally to enhance confidence.
  • Channel your nervousness into positive energy and motivation.
  • Start your outline and research early. Better information = higher confidence.
  • Practice and get feedback from a trusted source. (Don’t just practice for your cat.)
  • Visualize success through positive thinking.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare! Practice is a speaker’s best friend.

“Getting Critical”

How Much Emphasis Should We Place on Delivery?

Before you read the rest of the chapter, take some time to think about the balance between the value of content and delivery in a speech. We know it’s important to have solid content and to have an engaging and smooth delivery to convey that content, but how should each category be weighted and evaluated? Most people who have made it to college can put the time and effort into following assignment guidelines to put together a well-researched and well-organized speech. But some people are naturally better at delivering speeches than others. Some people are more extroverted, experience less public speaking anxiety, and are naturally more charismatic than others. Sometimes a person’s delivery and charisma might distract an audience away from critically evaluating the content of their speech. Charismatic and well-liked celebrities and athletes, for example, are used to endorse products and sell things to the public. We may follow their advice because we like them, instead of basing our choice on their facts or content. Aristotle, Cicero, and other notable orators instructed that delivery should be good enough to present the material effectively but not so good or so bad that it draws attention to itself. But in today’s celebrity culture, the bling or packaging is sometimes more valued than the contents. This leads us to some questions that might help us unpack the sometimes tricky relationship between content and delivery.

  • Do you think worries about content or delivery contribute more to speaking anxiety? Explain your choice.
  • How should someone be evaluated who works hard to research, organize, and write a speech, but doesn’t take the time to practice so they have a good delivery? What if they practice, but still don’t deliver the speech well on speech day?
  • How should we evaluate a speaker who delivers an engaging speech that gets the audience laughing and earns a big round of applause but doesn’t verbally cite sources or present well-organized ideas?
  • Is it ethical for someone to use their natural charisma or speaking abilities to win over an audience rather than relying on the merit and strength of their speech content? In what speaking situations would this be more acceptable? Less acceptable?

Key Takeaways

  • Getting integrated: Public speaking anxiety is a form of communication apprehension (CA) that is commonly experienced by many people and can be effectively managed using a variety of strategies. While we most often think of public speaking anxiety as an issue in the classroom and workplace, it can affect communication in personal and civic contexts as well.
  • Systematic desensitization helps lessen public speaking anxiety through repeated exposure to real or imagined public speaking scenarios.
  • Cognitive restructuring addresses public speaking by replacing negative thoughts with more positive thoughts, and COM therapy can help you view public speaking as a conversation rather than a performance.
  • Skills training allows you to focus on improving specific skills related to public speaking, which can increase confidence and lead to further skill development.
  • Physical relaxation exercises like deep breathing and stretching allow us to voluntarily use our bodies to address involuntary bodily reactions to anxiety.
  • Test your speaking anxiety using McCroskey’s “Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety” (PRPSA). You can access the scale here: . Follow the directions to determine your score. Do you agree with the result? Why or why not?
  • Of the strategies for managing public speaking anxiety listed in the chapter (systematic desensitization, cognitive restructuring, skills training, physical relaxation exercises), which do you think would be most useful for you and why?
  • When you take a communication course like this one, you are automatically engaging in some skills training. What are some public speaking skills that you are already good at? What are some skills that you should work on? Write out three goals you would like to accomplish for your next speech that focus on improving your public speaking skills.

Allen, M., John E. Hunter, and William A. Donohue, “Meta-analysis of Self-Report Data on the Effectiveness of Public Speaking Anxiety Treatment Techniques,” Communication Education 38, no. 1 (2009): 54–76.

Bodie, G. D., “A Racing Heart, Rattling Knees, and Ruminative Thoughts: Defining, Explaining, and Treating Public Speaking Anxiety,” Communication Education 59, no. 1 (2010): 70.

Motley, M. T., “COM Therapy,” in Avoiding Communication: Shyness, Reticence, and Communication Apprehension , eds. John A. Daly, James C. McCroskey, Joe Ayres, Tim Hopf, and Debbie M. Ayers Sonandre (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2009), 379–400.

Communication in the Real World Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Public speaking anxiety decreases within repeated virtual reality training sessions

Marcel takac.

1 RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

James Collett

Kristopher j. blom.

2 Virtual Human Technologies, Vinohrady, Czech Republic

Russell Conduit

Imogen rehm, alexander de foe, associated data.

All relevant data are within the manuscript. Software used in this study can be found here: .

Therapy for public speaking phobia using virtual reality exposure (VRE) has focused on distress arousal rather than distress habituation. Understanding habituation will help optimise session duration, making treatment more affordable and accessible. This pilot study utilised within-speech repeated measures to examine distress habituation during three brief public speaking scenarios in a non-clinical sample ( n = 19; 18–76 years). VRE elicited significant distress in all three scenarios. Although within-scenario distress habituation was not observed, between-scenario habituation was partially supported. An increase in distress during the second scenario indicated that three consecutive speech performances were critical in achieving habituation. Brief repeated VRE scenarios using an agent audience were effective in eliciting public speaking distress, as well as habituation.


Fear of public speaking (FOPS) is associated with debilitating anxiety that impacts social, academic, and career opportunities [ 1 ]. While cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) with graduated exposure is an effective intervention [ 2 ], in vivo exposure requires a suitable venue and audience. This complicates treatment and increases cost. Despite evidence supporting virtual reality exposure (VRE) as a suitable treatment alternative [ 3 ], research limitations are evident. Phobia research has generally focused on ensuring that VRE elicits distress [ 4 ], however there is a need to also examine distress habituation . Improved understanding of habituation patterns will promote optimisation of FOPS detection, intervention and prevention, and may also contribute to improved therapy access [ 5 ].

Fear of public speaking

FOPS is classified as a non-generalised social anxiety disorder (SAD) associated with performance situations involving perceived scrutiny by others [ 6 ]. The age of onset for social anxiety is typically 8–15 years [ 6 ] with FOPS being the most common lifetime social fear (21.2%) [ 7 ]. When facing public speaking, individuals with FOPS overestimate the potential for negative evaluation by others [ 8 ] while underestimating their own capability [ 9 ]. Thus, public speaking situations can become highly unpleasant and personally threatening [ 9 ].

FOPS includes both physiological (e.g., shaking) and psychological (worry) symptoms [ 10 ]. In some case, public speaking anxiety can culminate into panic attacks [ 11 ]. In addition, physiological FOPS symptoms can be visible to others, thus contributing to performance anxiety and discomfort. While individuals with FOPS anxiety try to avoid public speaking scenarios [ 6 ], avoidance actually limits their ability to overcome fear through experience [ 9 ]. Hence, FOPS limits functioning and lifestyle through fear-related academic and career avoidance [ 12 , 13 ]. Empirically validated interventions are necessary for alleviating these detrimental outcomes of FOPS.

Integrating virtual reality into public speaking therapy

The most empirically supported FOPS intervention is CBT [ 2 ]. Individual and/or group CBT is an effective FOPS treatment, with long-term success reported [ 14 , 15 ]. Controlled exposure allows individuals to experience public speaking, despite feeling some anxiety [ 2 ]. However, exposure requires coordination of venues and suitable audiences, which can delay therapy and increase costs.

A newer approach to FOPS treatment utilises virtual reality (VR) to emulate FOPS scenarios [ 16 ]. VRE can be delivered on demand, through a commercially available head-mounted display [ 17 ]. Such VR displays incorporate audio, as well as head-tracking, which maintains a user-centered field-of-view [ 16 ]. However, VR is more than technology; it is a psychological experience that creates the perception of being physically present in a virtual environment [ 18 ]. This sense of presence is considered to heighten emotional responses, such as anxiety [ 19 ].

VR delivers consistent and predictable public speaking scenarios that are highly customisable. This allows for systematic gradation of the challenge level of public speaking scenarios [ 20 ]. Empirical evidence supports VRE efficacy for FOPS [ 8 , 21 ]. Anderson, Price [ 22 ] determined that VRE and in vivo exposure demonstrated similar positive FOPS outcomes in a SAD-diagnosed sample ( n = 97). VRE altered real-world behaviour, with a reduction in peak anxiety reported. A 63% rate of partial or full remission of original diagnosis was achieved after three months [ 22 ]. Follow-up at 6-years indicated comparable long-term benefits for both treatments [ 3 ].

Distress habituation

Distress habituation is an indicator of emotion regulation and treatment efficacy [ 23 ], and is operationalised as a significant reduction in distress during and between exposures [ 24 ]. Although detailed FOPS habituation literature is lacking, the value of habituation research is evident in other domains. For example, in a 10-week clinical post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) study, van Minnen and Foa [ 24 ] compared 30-minute ( n = 32) with 60-minute ( n = 60) imaginal exposure and determined that while within-session habituation differed, between-session habituation was equally effective. Van Minnen and Foa [ 24 ] reported a significant reduction in PTSD symptom severity between weeks 2–10, for both groups.

Thus, habituation-based evidence allowed a reduction in therapy session duration without compromising therapy efficacy [ 24 ]. Shorter sessions reduce cost and make therapists more accessible [ 24 ]; a desired outcome for FOPS interventions [ 5 ]. Mapping FOPS symptomology against VRE habituation may also identify what symptoms or individual characteristics delay treatment response [ 24 ]. Finally, mapping within-scenario distress and habituation patterns of clinical and non-clinical populations could improve FOPS clinical diagnosis by providing reference data.

Previous research Findings and limitations

Based on Foa and Kozak’s [ 23 ] emotional processing theory, research by Finn, Sawyer [ 25 ] provides an empirical foundation for public speaking distress habituation. In a quasi-experimental design ( n = 140), Finn, Sawyer [ 25 ] assessed anxiety following two 5-minute speeches presented to class peers: 1. start-of-semester, and 2. end-of-semester. Treatment exposure consisted of brief repeated in vivo speeches to class peers, delivered during the semester. While within-scenario distress habituation for both speeches occurred independent of treatment, a significant between-scenario interaction of time by group, and a main effect for time were observed [ 25 ]. The experimental group experienced significantly less anxiety than controls during the end of semester speech; an outcome considered to be the result of experimental exposure [ 25 ].

As a limitation, Finn, Sawyer [ 25 ] suggested that audience familiarity should be controlled in future designs; a logistical hurdle for in vivo exposure. Furthermore, anxiety analysis was limited to the two, start and end-of-semester speeches (i.e., no assessment during brief exposure treatment). Finally, distress data collection occurred post-speech. While post-speech measures are common within public speaking literature, this methodology requires participants to reflect on their experience, which could make subjective measures less accurate.

Although within-speech habituation literature is lacking, preliminary VRE research has examined between-session habituation. Harris, Kemmerling [ 26 ] compared brief VRE FOPS exposure ( n = 8) with waitlist ( n = 6); measures included the Personal Report of Confidence as a Speaker (PRCS) [ 27 ], Subjective Units of Discomfort Scale (SUDS) [ 28 ] and heart rate. Weekly VRE scenarios were designed to provide increasing situational difficulty. While the treatment group results indicated a significant reduction in PRCS scores and heart rate, no significant SUDS decrease was observed. Harris, Kemmerling [ 26 ] suggested that the lack of SUDS reduction, despite increasing scenario difficulty, may indicate improved distress tolerance (i.e., habituation). Kozasa and Leite [ 29 ] also applied this rationale. However, the Kozasa and Leite [ 29 ], and Harris, Kemmerling [ 26 ] studies did not randomise scenarios to assess the assumption of anxiety stability despite increased task difficulty. Therefore, a randomised assessment is warranted.

Given the potential suitability of VRE to employ repeated measures in randomised scenarios, such methodology has not been explored within VRE public speaking literature. This could be partly attributed to the VRE public speaking research focus on eliciting anxiety and presence; methodologies that do not utilise within-speech measures. For example, Owens and Beidel [ 30 ] assessed VRE and in vivo differences for SUDS, heart rate and presence in adults with and without SAD; limited to baseline and post-speech measures. A significant increase in heart rate was evident for VRE and in vivo, with no group differences observed [ 30 ]. VRE and in vivo elicited significant SUDS increases (over baseline), with in vivo distress being significantly higher than VRE when in vivo was the second scenario [ 30 ]. However, presence-focused VRE literature does not consider within-speech distress variability (i.e., habituation), which could differ for in vivo and VRE. Thus, within-speech measures during VRE should be assessed.

The present study

This pilot study employed new research methodology, specifically focused on VRE-specific capabilities to overcome gaps within public speaking literature. Firstly, to address the existing dependence on post-speech anxiety measures, the present study utilised a repeated measures design to assess within-speech distress and habituation. In addition, to assess the assumption that anxiety score consistency (despite increased scenario difficulty) represents habituation, three agent-based VRE public speaking scenarios of varied difficulty were randomised, along with three impromptu speech topics in a single 60-minute session. This repeated randomised design was introduced to control for graded scenario difficulty across the three speeches. A non-clinical sample was utilised to gauge (sensitivity of) emotional regulation within public speaking VRE environments. The rationale was that a non-clinical sample would have lower sensitivity to FOPS, which would facilitate a better assessment of software capability (i.e., agent-based distress would be harder to elicit with a non-clinical sample).

The first aim was to gauge VRE effectiveness of agent-based software in initiating public speaking distress during brief repeated exposures. It was hypothesised that public speaking VRE would elicit distress within each scenario. The second aim was to determine whether within-scenario and between-scenario distress habituation was evident through brief repeated VRE. The second hypothesis was that within-scenario habituation would be achieved in each scenario. The third hypothesis was that brief repeated exposure would result in between-scenario habituation.


Participants were recruited through RMIT University, Melbourne, including the RMIT chapter of Toastmasters ( n = 5), as well as from the general population using Facebook. Toastmasters is an international organisation focused on development of public speaking and leadership skills. Membership of Toastmasters reflects a self-interest in improving public speaking competence for a variety of reasons (e.g., self-confidence or non-native English speakers). Regular group attendance and public speaking participation are not compulsory. As such, Toastmasters members may not necessarily possess greater capability in managing FOPS than the general population.

A total of 22 adults commenced the study, however, one was unable to complete the procedure due to task-related discomfort and was excluded. The remaining 21 participants were screened for clinical levels of social anxiety. Two participants obtained a score > 34 on the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS) [ 31 ], indicating clinical SAD levels (per [ 31 ]) and were excluded from analysis. Decision to exclude clinically SAD participants was based on the rationale that non-clinical participants would be less sensitive to state anxiety. Therefore, agent-based scenario distress would be harder to initiate, providing a better gauge of software capability. The final sample consisted of 19 participants aged 18–76 years ( M = 35.47, SD = 15.46). There were ten males (52.6%) and nine females (47.4%).

Twelve participants (63.1%) were students (10 fulltime; 52.6%) from various disciplines, including five from psychology-related programs. A total of 14 participants (73.7%) were employed (11 part-time; 57.9%), with one participant working in a psychology-related field. Toastmasters participants represented 26.3% of the total sample ( n = 5). Participation was voluntary, with a small incentive offered (the chance to win one of three $100 store gift cards).

VR equipment consisted of a personal computer, Oculus Rift (Oculus VR, Facebook Inc., USA) and Virtual Orator (Virtual Human Technologies Inc., Czech Republic) public speaking software. Audience agents represented a mix of race and gender; agents were randomised in every scenario. Participants experienced themselves in first-person perspective in the scenarios, as per the standard setup of the Oculus Rift visual experience.

Heart rate was recorded in beats per minute (bpm) using a wrist-worn Fitbit Surge (Fitbit Inc.). Fitbit Surge demonstrates heart rate reliability for laboratory experiments that do not involve excessive physical movement (e.g., running), with error rates below 5% when compared to medical devices [ 32 ]. Since heart rate is not a pure measure of distress [ 33 ], it was recorded as a secondary measure of arousal.

The SIAS [ 31 ] is a self-report measure of fear in general social interactions. Responses to 20 items are scored on a 5-point Likert scale. Ratings ranged from 0 (not at all) to 4 (extremely). The scale has demonstrated high internal consistency (α = .94) and test-retest reliability (α = 0.92) [ 31 ].

The short-form of the Personal Report of Confidence as a Speaker (PRCS-2) is a FOPS measure [ 34 ]. It consists of 12 true or false items, with possible scores ranging from 0 (lowest fear) to 12 (highest fear). The scale has demonstrated internal consistency (α = .85) and validity, reporting a significant correlation with the 30-item version ( r = 0.81, p < .001, n = 1194) [ 34 ].

SUDS [ 28 ] is a single-item self-report distress measure; distress is rated from 0 (no distress) to 100 (extreme distress), with repeated measures used to monitor distress variance over time. SUDS has been validated in anxiety therapy [ 28 ] and research [ 24 , 26 , 30 ]. A reception call-bell (i.e., counter bell) was utilised during VRE to indicate that a new SUDS rating was required.

The Igroup Presence Questionnaire (IPQ) [ 35 ] measures four presence constructs (general, spatial, involvement and realness). Self-reported responses are rated on a 7-point Likert scale from 0 (lowest) to 6 (highest), with varied anchors across items. The IPQ constructs demonstrate good validity and internal consistency: spatial α = .85, involvement α = .72 and realness α = .79 [ 36 ].

Ethics approval was received from the College Human Ethics Advisory Network (Science, Engineering and Health) at RMIT University. Advertising for participants commenced using printed posters and paid Facebook advertisements. Consenting participants were fitted with a heart rate monitor and introduced to SUDS. The first (resting) SUDS and heart rate measures were taken. Participants then completed pre-exposure measures: demographics, SIAS and PRCS-2. All measures other than heart rate and SUDS were completed via Qualtrics. Heart rate and SUDS were recorded manually by the experimenter and matched to Qualtrics data using a non-identifying participant number.

A VR induction, including a speech-free VRE scenario (audience-free classroom, not used in experiment) was provided. Participants then removed their head mounted display and rested two minutes before receiving their first topic. Three topics and three software scenarios were randomised for each participant. Topics were general knowledge and included descriptions of the audience: 1. provide overview of attractions and character of Melbourne to senior executives, 2. present pros and cons of public transport to a government committee and 3. detail the importance of managing our environment to university students. VRE scenarios consisted of varied venues and audience sizes: small (10 agents; see Fig 1 ), medium (18 agents; see Fig 2 ) and large (46 agents; see Fig 3 ). To increase variety, the small venue audience was programmed to be less attentive to the speaker, with some audience members checking a wall clock and using mobile phones. The medium and large venue audiences were more focused on the presenting participants.

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It was requested that participants speak for six minutes, although earlier conclusion was permitted. Participants were given 30-seconds to read each speech topic. Heart rate and SUDS measures were taken again and then three minutes were provided for speech preparation. Participants were able to utilise virtual cue cards if desired. After three minutes of preparation, participants fitted their head mounted display and waited for commencement of the VRE scenario. There was a two-minute pause prior to scenario commencement. Speeches were delivered standing up, as would be common for all the scenarios utilised.

After Speech 1 and 2, the head mounted display was removed and participants sat for three minutes, after which resting heart rate and SUDS were recorded. This process was repeated for the subsequent scenarios.

During VRE scenarios, heart rate and verbal SUDS measures were taken during predetermined milestones, as shown in Fig 4 . Following Speech 3, participants completed the IPQ. The whole procedure took approximately 60 minutes.

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Data preparation and Screening

Self-report measures, heart rate, and SUDS scores were exported to SPSS. Relevant items were reverse coded: SIAS (items 5, 9 and 11) and IPQ (items 3, 9 and 11). Total scores were calculated for SIAS, PRCS-2 and IPQ. When controlling for randomisation, a preliminary t-test showed no significant SUDS or heart rate differences for speech or scenario type, which indicated that each scenario/speech produced a comparable stress response. PRSC-2 data demonstrated a low internal consistency and was therefore excluded from analysis. Descriptive statistics for all self-report measures are presented in Table 1 .

Measure ( )RangeSkewKurtosisα
SIAS19.79 (7.51)5–330–80-0.18-0.53.82
PRCS-25.58 (2.09)3–100–120.39-0.75.67
 Total46.89 (11.38)15–610–84-1.582.93.83
 General 4.68 (1.46)1–60–6-1.803.08-
 Spatial20.26 (6.17)4–270–30-
 Involvement16.63 (5.15)7–240–24-0.54-0.54.74
 Realism10 (3.01)3–140–24-0.750.11.11

Note . SIAS = Social Interaction Anxiety Scale. PRCS-2 = Short-Form of the Personal Report of Confidence as a Speaker. IPQ = Igroup Presence Questionnaire.

a Single scale item.

Hypothesis-Testing for subjective distress and physiological arousal

Analysis compared mean baseline measures with mean pre-speech (Time 1) measures for SUDS and heart rate for each scenario. For SUDS, histograms indicated one extreme outlier for the first scenario. Calculations were performed with and without the outlier and the pattern of results remained the same. Accordingly, the outlier was retained. Two-tailed, paired samples t -tests were performed to compare mean SUDS, and mean heart rate scores across time, with the results shown in Table 2 .

MeasureBaselineT1 Effect size
Cohen’s 95% CI
 SUDS14.47 (12.00)36.47 (17.85)6.38 181.45[0.91, 1.86]
 Heart rate77.21 (9.93)85.11 (12.16)3.17 180.71[0.40, 0.96]
 SUDS20.32 (13.40)29.16 (17.40)2.88 180.57[0.30, 0.80]
 Heart rate72.42 (8.73)79.11 (8.72)4.09 180.77[0.44, 1.03]
 SUDS19.53 (11.35)28.26 (17.01)3.26 180.60[0.32, 0.84]
 Heart rate71.47 (9.29)76.32 (8.12)4.27 180.56[0.29, 0.78]

Note . SUDS = Subjective Units of Discomfort Scale. S1 = Scenario 1. S2 = Scenario 2. S3 = Scenario 3. Time 1 = 00:00 minutes.

** p < .01, two-tailed.

Hypothesis-Testing for within-scenario habituation

Two-tailed, paired samples t -tests were used to compare Time 1 measures with time at three minutes (Time 5) measures, for SUDS and heart rate within each scenario. The Time 5 interval was used to maintain a larger sample size as not all participants needed the additional time beyond Time 5. No significant SUDS differences were identified between Time 1 and Time 5 (see Table 3 ), with an identical result emerging when comparing Time 1 to the participant’s final measure (independent of time). Fig 5 shows SUDS score trends for the first three minutes for all scenarios.

MeasureTime 1Time 5 Effect size
Cohen’s 95% CI
 SUDS36.83 (18.29)33.72 (16.46)-0.8117-0.18[-0.36, 0.02]
 Heart rate84.33 (12.02)84.56 (11.06)0.09170.02[-0.17, 0.20]
 SUDS29.67 (17.76)31.00 (18.08)0.45170.07[-0.12, 0.26]
 Heart rate78.78 (8.86)85.67 (10.57)2.45 170.71[0.39, 0.96]
 SUDS28.72 (17.38)26.39 (14.60)-0.8517-0.15[-0.33, 0.05]
 Heart rate76.28 (8.36)82.06 (10.56)3.64 170.61[0.32, 0.84]

Note . SUDS = Subjective Units of Discomfort Scale. S1 = Scenario 1. S2 = Scenario 2. S3 = Scenario 3. Time 1 = 00:00 minutes. Time 5 = 03:00 minutes.

*p < .05, two-tailed.

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Error bars represent standard errors.

Heart rate increases were observed within Scenario 2 and Scenario 3 ( Fig 6 ). Significant between-scenario heart rate differences (from Time 1 to Time 5) were identified for Scenario 2 and Scenario 3 ( Table 3 ).

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Hypothesis-Testing for between-scenario habituation

One way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed for SUDS and heart rate using mean Time 1 measures for all scenarios. For SUDS, repeated measures ANOVA results showed that the sample experienced SUDS habituation between some scenarios, F (2,36) = 3.997, p = .027, partial η 2 = .18. Fig 7 shows the observed between-scenario SUDS trend.

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Object name is pone.0216288.g007.jpg

Time 1 = 00:00 minutes. Error bars represent standard errors. ( N = 19).

Given that Bonferroni adjustment detrimentally impacts small samples [ 37 ], pairwise comparisons were calculated at the p = .05 level ( Table 4 ). Significant differences were observed between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2, as well as Scenario 1 and Scenario 3. No significant difference was observed between Scenario 2 and Scenario 3. A paired samples t -test was conducted between Scenario 2 mean SUDS score at Time 5 ( M = 31.00, SD = 18.08) and Scenario 1 mean SUDS score at Time 1 ( M = 36.83, SD = 18.29). The difference was not significant, t (17) = 1.33, p = .200.

Measures difference 95% CIEffect size
95% CI
S1 vs. S2
 SUDS-7.32 3.10[-13.82, -0.81]-0.42[-0.62, -0.18]
 Heart rate-6.00 2.03[-10.26, -1.74]-0.57[-0.79, -0.29]
S1 vs. S3
 SUDS-8.21 3.76[-16.12, -0.30]-0.47[-0.68, -0.22]
 Heart rate-8.79 2.08[-13.15, -4.43]-0.85[-1.13, -0.50]
S2 vs. S3
 SUDS-0.902.59[-6.34, 4.55]-0.05[-0.23, 0.13]
 Heart rate-2.791.74[-6.43, 0.86]-0.33[-0.52, -0.11]

Note . SUDS = Subjective Units of Discomfort Scale. S1 = Scenario 1. S2 = Scenario 2. S3 = Scenario 3. Heart rate = beats per minute.

* p < .05, two-tailed.

** p < .01, two-tailed. Unadjusted for multiple comparisons

For heart rate, a repeated measures ANOVA confirmed habituation between some scenarios, F (2,36) = 383.28, p < .001, partial η 2 = .37. Fig 8 shows the observed between-scenario heart rate trend. Pairwise comparisons are shown in Table 4 .

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Object name is pone.0216288.g008.jpg

The present study examined self-reported distress habituation during three brief repeated VR public speaking scenarios in a non-clinical adult sample. Within-speech repeated measures were utilised to gauge the efficacy of agent-based software in initiating public speaking distress and habituation. Distress was operationalised using SUDS for psychological distress, and heart rate for physiological arousal. SIAS mean score was indicative of a non-clinical community sample [ 31 ] and demonstrated good internal consistency. IPQ Total Score confirmed VR presence was achieved in relation to the criteria, which therefore indicates that participants experienced a sense of immersion and presence within the VRE scenarios [ 36 ].

As hypothesised, agent-based VRE elicited subjective distress during all of the utilised public speaking scenarios. Significant physiological arousal was also observed in heart rate data. These subjective distress and heart rate results support previous research [ 26 , 30 ]. Furthermore, this study demonstrated that Virtual Orator software elicited significant levels of distress upon first view of the agent audience, prior to speech-performance cognitive load (i.e., cognition required for language planning and information processing during speech delivery [ 38 ]).

The second hypothesis, relating to within-scenario distress habituation, was not supported. While within-scenario habituation was evident during Scenario 1 and Scenario 3, results were not significant. Furthermore, Scenario 2 within-scenario distress increased. These results were not consistent with Finn, Sawyer [ 25 ], who reported significant within-scenario distress habituation during in vivo exposure. Since Finn, Sawyer [ 25 ] participants presented speeches to peers, audience familiarity could have enhanced habituation due to a reduced potential for negative evaluation and mutual empathy (audience members were also presenting speeches). In contrast, the present study utilised generic VR venues and agent audiences, ensuring that participants were blind to content pre-exposure. Additionally, Finn, Sawyer [ 25 ] habituation data was based on post-speech rather than within-scenario measures, with assessment speech scenarios being administered several weeks apart.

It remains unclear why Scenario 2 distress trended upward in the present study. At the 3-minute Scenario 2 milestone (i.e., Time 5), mean SUDS scores were not significantly different from Scenario 1 commencement (i.e., Time 1). It is possible that during Scenario 2, emotional processing may have not yet been achieved [ 23 ], or that distress tolerance diminished. Distress tolerance has been negatively correlated with anxiety symptomology [ 39 ]. As such, heightened awareness of new symptoms (e.g., sweaty palms) could have increased distress. Importantly, the increase in self-report distress within Scenario 2 indicated that three brief scenarios were required to achieve habituation (speech duration was not relevant). Therefore, single and dual speech VRE designs could inadvertently exacerbate FOPS.

The third hypothesis, concerning between-scenario distress habituation, was partially supported. Significant between-scenario public speaking distress habituation was observed between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2, and Scenario 1 and Scenario 3, however not between Scenario 2 and Scenario 3. One possible explanation for this is that distress escalation during Scenario 2 diminished participants’ confidence, thus increasing Scenario 3 pre-speech anxiety [ 40 ].

Between-scenario results demonstrated that randomisation of the scenarios (i.e., 8–46 agents) did not affect within- session distress habituation (i.e., from commencement of Scenario 1 to Scenario 3 conclusion). Participant’s distress reduced over the three scenarios even though scenario intensity was not increased systematically. Therefore, the present results do not support the rationale argued by Kozasa and Leite [ 29 ], and Harris, Kemmerling [ 26 ] that distress stability, despite increased scenarios difficulty, is an indication of distress habituation. However, it is still possible that participants in the Kozasa and Leite [ 29 ], and Harris, Kemmerling [ 26 ] studies experienced environmental-familiarity (i.e., venue and/or audience), which assisted with anxiety regulation (i.e., anxiety stability). Importantly, outcomes from this randomised, repeated-measures study demonstrated that agent-based VRE was not susceptible to environmental-familiarity. Furthermore, in contrast to commonly used post-exposure distress scores, the repeated-measures distress data utilised in the present study eliminated the need for distress variability assumptions.

Present research Findings and future Recommendations

This pilot study contributes to existing public speaking VRE research by demonstrating that distress habituation is neither uniform nor systematic. Repetition of presentations was essential in achieving sustained distress habituation. While this finding requires replication, it has implications for research, as well as educational institutions. Single speech exposure could exacerbate FOPS by confirming participants’ anticipated anxiety without achieving habituation. Thus, participants may not experience sufficient positive emotion from a single scenario. This is an important consideration given that FOPS research commonly utilises single scenarios. Similarly, student academic public speaking tasks can be infrequent and limited to single speeches. Therefore, VRE could offer a cost-effective solution for schools to facilitate brief repeated, public speaking practice to build speakers’ confidence.

The present study also demonstrated that FOPS repeated distress measures and graded scenario randomisation are easily incorporated into VRE research designs. Measuring within-speech distress during performances provides a more detailed representation of distress variability than post-speech assessments; within-speech data facilitates better insight concerning emotional regulation and habituation. This benefits individual studies, as well as future literature comparisons. Understanding how habituation patterns differ between clinical and non-clinical populations could help improve FOPS detection, clinical diagnosis and treatment. As such, future VRE FOPS research should continue to utilise a repeated-measures design. Repeated measures and randomisation methodologies should also be considered for other VRE applications.


A number of limitations need to be considered. First, the small sample size, while not unusual for FOPS research, is more prone to type I error. Second, SUDS measures during VRE were cued by a manual call bell within the physical room. This could impact several IPQ question responses related to awareness of the real environment (i.e., physical room). To minimise this distraction, future designs should incorporate a within-software SUDS cue signal. Nevertheless, this was also considered a strength of the research design, as explained above. In addition, the current design did not consider the reduced timeframes for consolidation of emotional learning (i.e., only three minutes of rest were provided between scenarios). Thus, future within-scenario distress variability utilising brief, successive FOPS scenarios should be compared with extended VRE sessions; ideally single speeches separated by days to allow consolidation during sleep.

Furthermore, the current study did not evaluate the transfer of brief VRE exposure to real-world scenarios, or the long-term maintenance of FOPS habituation. Lastly, the inclusion of Toastmasters participants ( n = 5) warrants a mention. It is important to consider that membership of Toastmasters does not necessarily represent a specific level of public speaking fear or competence (i.e., high or low). In other words, variability of public speaking skills and FOPS are to be expected, as per the general population. Further to this, clinical levels of social phobia were an exclusion criteria. However, sub-clinical levels of FOPS are common in the general population and also associated with distress and adverse consequences for work and vocational performance [ 41 ].

The present VRE public speaking study demonstrated that rapidly successive FOPS scenarios were capable of eliciting self-reported distress within a non-clinical adult sample. Distress was easier to initiate than habituation, with three successive speeches required to sustain distress reduction. Replication of this finding will be valuable given that less frequent brief exposures could exacerbate FOPS. The present design also demonstrated that public speaking distress was elicited upon initial view of agent-based VR scenarios, prior to speech commencement. VRE has potential to enhance FOPS detection and therapy, making it cheaper, more accessible and more effective. To achieve this, VRE public speaking research should consider the value of a repeated-measures design to map distress variability and habituation; a methodology equally valuable for other VRE clinical research.

Funding Statement

Virtual Human Technologies provided support in the form of materials (software). The funder provided and tailored the code of the software for the purposes of this experiment post-pilot, and provided verbal consultation to the lead investigator about best implementation of the software.

Data Availability

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Speech Anxiety

Most people experience some level of speech anxiety when they have to speak in front of a group; in fact, public speaking is many people’s greatest fear. Speech anxiety can range from a slight feeling of “nerves” to a nearly incapacitating fear. Some of the most common symptoms of speech anxiety are: shaking, sweating, butterflies in the stomach, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, and squeaky voice. Although it is often impossible to completely eliminate speech anxiety there are a variety of ways to deal with it and even make it work to your advantage.

About Speech Anxiety

Experiencing speech anxiety is normal. Nearly everyone gets nervous when they have to give a speech or a presentation, even experienced speakers. The speakers that look relaxed and confident have simply learned how to handle their anxiety and use it to enhance their performance.

Most of your anxiety is not visible to the audience. You may feel like you are shaking uncontrollably but people in the audience probably cannot even tell. Gain confidence from the fact that you are the only one who knows how nervous you are.

The audience wants you to succeed. Novice speakers commonly feel that the people in the audience are extremely critical and want them to fail. This is very rarely the case. Think about situations where you have been an audience member. Did you want the speaker to fail? Probably not, in fact we are usually quite supportive of speakers and may even feel bad for them if they stumble over a word or lose their train of thought. Most audiences you will address as a student are rooting for you.

Anxiety decreases as a speech progresses. Speech anxiety is usually worst right before a speech and at the beginning of the speech. Most people find that once they get through the introduction their anxiety begins to decrease and confidence increases.

Tips for Dealing with Speech Anxiety

Before the speech . . ..

Identify the cause of your nervousness. Write down the reasons why you are nervous to give a speech or presentation. If you come up with something like, “I’m afraid I’ll look stupid” dig a little deeper. What would make you look stupid? You may find that you are really afraid that you will forget what you wanted to say. This will help you pinpoint specific things to work on. If you are afraid you will forget what you wanted to say then spending extra time practicing your speech should reduce that anxiety.

Choose topics that you are interested in. We do not always get to choose topics that we speak about. If you are able to choose your topic pick one that interests you. It is much easier to spend time researching and preparing a presentation on a topic that you care about than one you have no interest in. You will also be more inclined to display enthusiasm about a topic that you enjoy.

Prepare your speech early and thoroughly. Having to prepare a speech at the last minute will only increase your anxiety. After you have prepared your speech PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!! Practice delivering your speech at least 7 to 10 times before your actual presentation. Be sure that you know the organization of your main points to avoid losing your place. Watch yourself in the mirror while you deliver your speech, this will allow you to see your gestures and body language and practice making eye contact. You can also give your speech to friends or family members and ask them for feedback. Audio or videotaping your speech are other ways to evaluate and improve your delivery. If you are given a time limit for your presentation be sure to use a stopwatch as you give your speech. Time each practice run and make changes to ensure that you will be able to stay within your allotted time. Keep in mind that most of us speak more quickly when we are in front of a real audience.

Know your topic. If you have researched the topic thoroughly you will be certain that you are presenting accurate information and you will be able to answer questions that the audience may ask. These things will greatly increase your confidence.

Be aware of the speech situation. One of the hardest things for a speaker to deal with is a surprise. While we cannot completely avoid surprises we can minimize them. Make sure that you are aware of all aspects of the speech situation ahead of time. Know your time limit, the size of your audience, the make-up of your audience (see audience analysis), what equipment you will have available to you (computer, overhead, podium, easel, etc.), and any other details that may affect your presentation. Also, if you are using any type of technology in your speech (i.e. a PowerPoint presentation) be sure that you have a back-up plan (see Visual Aids and Technology). Technology can be a wonderful tool but it can also be unpredictable.

Set realistic expectations. No one is perfect. Public speaking is difficult to master even seasoned speakers make mistakes. Instead of telling yourself that you have to deliver your speech flawlessly, think realistic things like, “If I lose my place I will calmly scan my notes and then continue my speech” or “Small mistakes aren’t going to ruin my speech.”

Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and visualize success. Thinking negative thoughts increases anxiety. When a negative thought comes to mind try to immediately replace it with positive thoughts. For example, if you think, “I’m going to forget what to say and just stand there,” replace that with thoughts like, “I’ve done a great deal of research and I know this topic well” and “I have practiced my speech many times and I’m going to deliver it just like I practiced.” Other performers such as athletes and musicians have found that visualization can be a powerful tool to improve performance. See yourself delivering the speech with confidence and successfully conveying your message.

Continue gaining experience. One of the best ways to combat speech anxiety is to gain speaking experience. Take any opportunity that you have to speak in public. Speak in your classes or volunteer to give presentations for groups you are involved in - anything that gives you a chance to hone your speaking skills.

On the day of the speech . . .

Exercise. Exercising on the day of a speech can help reduce anxiety and stress.

Use relaxation techniques. Simple relaxation techniques lessen anxiety and allow them to focus on the task at hand. Some of the most common relaxation techniques are: taking deep breaths, tightening and then relaxing your muscles, and visualizing a peaceful scene.

Accept fear and use it. Accept the fact that you are nervous (remember it’s normal to experience speech anxiety) and use that nervous energy to enhance your delivery. Use the extra adrenaline that you get from fear to invigorate your gestures and enthusiasm about your topic. Remember, even the best speakers get nervous, but they use it to their benefit.

Wear clothes that you feel confident in. Most of us have a few outfits that we feel particularly comfortable and confident in. These are good things to wear when you present a speech. If you feel good about how you look standing in front of your audience, you can put all of your focus on your message. You do not want to distract your audience or yourself by adjusting your clothes or hair during your speech.

Act confident and do not profess your anxiety to the audience. Remember that your nervousness is usually invisible to your audience. If you act confident your audience will assume that you are. This can become a positive circular process: the audience gives you the respect of a competent speaker, you receive positive feedback that gives you more confidence in your ability, and the audience gives you more respect. A common mistake that novice speakers make is telling the audience that they are nervous. This does not lessen your anxiety and it tends to make your audience uncomfortable since they want you to succeed. Acting confident is a much more effective strategy.

Find friendly faces in the crowd. While you are speaking find one or two people in the audience that are giving you positive feedback (nodding in agreement, smiling when appropriate, etc.). When you feel nervous make eye contact with those people. Their friendly faces will give you encouragement.

Find ways to hide your anxiety. If your mouth goes dry, be sure to bring a glass of water with you when you speak. If you sweat excessively, wear clothes that will not allow your audience to detect it. If your hands shake, use gestures that mask the shaking. no longer supports Internet Explorer.

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Profile image of MYLEN AZAGRA

This study analyzed the level of the speech anxiety of Grade 11 students of Polillo National High School and their academic performance in Oral Communication in Context. This descriptive study was conducted among 247 Grade 11 students of Polillo National High School. Frequency, percentage, weighted mean, and Pearson product moment correlation coefficient (Pearson r) were used in analyzing and interpreting the data. Results revealed that majority of the respondents were 17 years old, female residents of Brgy. Poblacion taking General Academic Strand. The manifestation of speech anxiety among them were sometimes experienced which is usually elevated heart rate or fast heart rate. They experienced moderate anxiety which means it is still manageable and treatable. The students’ speech anxiety is also not related to their academic performance which could mean there are other factors that may be more or significantly contributory to the students’ academic performance. There is a need to conduct further studies on other group of respondents with different profile and locale to determine who are in need of assistance in terms of speech anxiety. Key words: speech anxiety, oral communication, communication skill

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  4. Psychological Interventions for the Fear of Public Speaking: A Meta

    Background: Fear of Public Speaking (FoPS) or public speaking anxiety is a type of social anxiety and the single most commonly feared situation in the population. FoPS is disabling with negative occupational, academic, and social consequences, reported by up to one third of the population. FoPS in adolescence and adulthood is associated with an increased risk of developing generalized social ...

  5. PDF A Phenomenological Study: Speaking Anxiety Overwhelms English Learners

    This study aims to determine the sources that cause speaking anxiety overwhelms English learners. It is a qualitative in nature and focuses on learners' speaking anxiety. The samples of the research are composed of senior high school students who deal with speaking anxiety. The primary

  6. PDF Public speaking anxiety: comparing face-to-face and web-based speeches

    Public Speaking Anxiety, Page 1 Public speaking anxiety: comparing face-to-face and web-based speeches Scott Campbell National University James Larson ... The research includes a benefits analysis for student and instructor based on the results. Keywords: speech anxiety, web-based technology, communication skills, speech delivery ...

  7. A Study of Factors Affecting and Causing Speaking Anxiety

    Research Methodology The qualitative method is used in analyzing and describing the data to identify the factors causing speaking anxiety during the English speaking class and also to identify the dominant factors of speaking anxiety. The data in this research is collected in the form of open-ended questionnaire from 50 under graduate, Art and ...

  8. Scales assessing L2 speaking anxiety: Development, validation, and

    Public Speaking Anxiety (PSA) has also been measured as one category of social anxiety through the lens of psychometric studies, where L1 speakers are recruited as participants. ... Another line of speaking anxiety research is stimulated by a stronger presence of technology in classrooms and the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Aydin ...

  9. Just breathe: Towards real-time intervention for public speaking anxiety

    1. Introduction. Public speaking anxiety (PSA) is one of the most common and most severe types of social anxiety that people experience (Hope, Heimberg, & Turk, 2010).Like other social anxieties, public speaking anxiety can be explained within the model proposed by (Lang, 2004, pp. 90-102), in which anxiety is experienced in three systems: cognitive, physiological, and behavioral.

  10. Speech Anxiety

    Abstract. Speech anxiety is a popularly researched area, probably due to its prevalence, the availability of subjects (usually college students), and its similarity to common clinical presentations of anxiety (Turner, Beidel, & Larkin, 1986). Of adults, 25% report "much" fear when speaking before a group (Borkovec & O'Brien, 1976).

  11. Demographic predictors of public speaking anxiety among university

    Public speaking is a crucial component of many higher education courses and is essential for students' academic performance and future career success. Despite its importance, public speaking anxiety is a common issue among higher education students, adversely impacting their learning. Addressing this anxiety through targeted interventions, especially for the most at-risk students, is vital ...

  12. Anxiety Level in Students of Public Speaking: Causes and Remedies

    Research revealed that exposure to virtual environment can facilitate student confidence and enables themto face audience irrespective of the size. ... simulated public speaking induced anxiety as ...

  13. The Effect of Speaking Anxiety on Students Performance in Speech Class

    The Effect of Speaking Anxiety on Students Performance in Speech Class. January 2021. DOI: 10.2991/assehr.k.210325.043. License.

  14. Full article: Interactive effects of English-speaking anxiety and

    Of various types of FLA, SL/FL speaking anxiety has been researched the most extensively, which stemmed from research on public speaking anxiety in the native language. As a form of situation-specific anxiety, public speaking anxiety has long merited researchers' attention and been measured in terms of the STAI scale (and) ...

  15. Voices in peril: understanding English public speaking anxiety among

    Psycholinguistic influence on public speaking anxiety. ... and linguistic fluency contributing to public speaking anxiety. The research demonstrates how negative self-perception and the perceived need to meet high linguistic standards, likely influenced by the historical prestige of English, lead to heightened anxiety among students. ...

  16. Measuring Public Speaking Anxiety: Self-report, behavioral, and

    Public speaking anxiety is considered a social anxiety disorder and refers to the anxiety that an individual experiences when giving a speech or preparing to speak in front of others. In Finland, one in three students report that speaking in public is a severe problem for them ( Kunttu et al., 2017 ).


    The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 40%* of the population. The underlying fear is judgment or negative evaluation by others. Public speaking anxiety is considered a social anxiety ...

  18. PDF ournal of ducation and ducational Development Article Anxiety Level in

    the students reduce their public speaking anxiety. Methodology This was a small scale exploratory research conducted to analyze the needs of students of public speaking class at undergraduate level for formulating strategies that would overcome public speaking anxiety. The study was conducted using the quantitative descriptive research method.

  19. (PDF) Students' Speaking Anxiety on their Speaking ...

    Then, 30 students (38.5%) were at a moderate level of speaking anxiety. This implies that. students experienced anxiety in most public speaking situations. but no severe. Then, it shows that 8 ...

  20. 10.1 Managing Public Speaking Anxiety

    Research on public speaking anxiety has focused on three key ways to address this common issue: systematic desensitization, cognitive restructuring, and skills training (Bodie, 2010). In addition, it is important to address the physical manifestations of speaking anxiety.

  21. Public Speaking Anxiety: What It Is, Signs, and More

    Public speaking anxiety is estimated to affect between 15% and 30% of the general population, according to a 2016 article. While some people may have only mild anxiety about speaking in public ...

  22. Public speaking anxiety decreases within repeated virtual reality

    In some case, public speaking anxiety can culminate into panic attacks . In addition, physiological FOPS symptoms can be visible to others, thus contributing to performance anxiety and discomfort. ... To achieve this, VRE public speaking research should consider the value of a repeated-measures design to map distress variability and habituation ...

  23. Speech Anxiety

    Speech Anxiety. Most people experience some level of speech anxiety when they have to speak in front of a group; in fact, public speaking is many people's greatest fear. Speech anxiety can range from a slight feeling of "nerves" to a nearly incapacitating fear. Some of the most common symptoms of speech anxiety are: shaking, sweating ...

  24. (Pdf) Speech Anxiety and Academic Performance in Oral Communication in

    This study analyzed the level of the speech anxiety of Grade 11 students of Polillo National High School and their academic performance in Oral Communication in Context. This descriptive study was conducted among 247 Grade 11 students of Polillo ... mainly communicative competence.The research examines the use of visual texts as supplementary ...

  25. (PDF) Levels of Oral Communication Skills and Speaking Anxiety of

    of speaking, like public speaking, could help reduce the said anxiety (Menzell Carrell, 2009). Lastly , the results show a positive correlation between the educators ' oral communication skills ...

  26. Learning From Research: Thinking About Why and How to Promote Word

    The purpose of this clinical focus article is to review why speech sound disorder (SSD) puts children at risk for word reading difficulties and how speech-language pathologists can integrate foundational word reading skills to reduce this risk.

  27. Public speaking and leadership in implant dentistry: Have these skills

    The 2023 EAO SC was a successful event providing advanced training in leadership and public speaking skills, however, a notable number of young dentists continue to experience anxiety when faced with presentations, indicating a potential need for additional training to relieve stress and enhance confidence. To describe the speaker and leadership development seminars during the 2023 EAO Summer ...