Why does public speaking make your stomach turn?

Hate public speaking? Turns out there may be a way to fix it with virtual reality.

Does this image give you anxiety? Keep reading. Photo by Tim Napier on Unsplash

You are not alone

From when I started public speaking in school, it always gave me anxiety. I’ve had people tell me to imagine the audience in their underwear. That never worked for me.

I wear reading glasses and during one of my presentations, I wore my glasses the whole time to avoid seeing people’s faces in the audience. It helped my anxiety but it gave me a headache.

If you’re like me, the individual presentation for this subject made your stomach somersault.

Glossophobia—what is it?

There’s a term for the fear of public speaking: it’s called glossophobia. People who experience it can experience different symptoms when public speaking.

In my case, I start speaking quickly and try to look in the center of the room, not making eye contact with people. I also have avoided doing subjects in University because they have individual presentations and have had panic attacks at the thought of public speaking.

Why does it happen?

It is a common fear, and it is estimated that 75% of people have glossophobia. There can be a few causes, such as environmental, genetic and social factors, and people who have glossophobia can be fearful of rejection or embarrassment.

A lot of people who experience glossophobia do not experience anxiety in other social situations. For example, I do not get fearful when meeting new people; I find it to be a pleasant experience.

Can virtual reality help?

 Virtual reality: a way to combat glossophobia. Photo by Hammer & Tusk on Unsplash

It may seem like public speaking fears can’t be overcome. I didn’t think mine would ever get better. But there may be a way to fix that.

Cerevum’s Speech Center VR is a solution to public speaking anxiety. It allows users to make their own avatar and give practice speeches in virtual reality scenarios with other avatars in the audience. Some of these practice situations include classrooms, lecture theatres and business meetings.

A unique feature of Speech Center VR is being able to prepare for unexpected situations including how an audience behaves and noise in the audience. It is only available for Samsung Gear and Google Play but the company hopes to release it for other devices soon.

One of the presentations scenarios seen in Speech Center VR. Photo by Ian Hamilton obtained from Upload VR.

Evidence for the power of virtual reality

Virtual reality exposure therapy utilizes virtual reality to help patients. There is evidence that it helps to treat social anxiety disorder and public speaking anxiety.

As these technologies continue to develop, they may provide more help for people. I want to try to use virtual reality to help with my public speaking anxiety. I hope it works for you.

For more reading on Virtual reality exposure therapy:

How Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) Treats PTSD

Speech Center VR

15 Greatest Examples of Virtual Reality Therapy


6 Responses to “Why does public speaking make your stomach turn?”

  1. megany says:

    Thanks so much Jaitika!

  2. Jaitika says:

    Such an interesting and relatable post, given that most of us had our presentations recently.

    Would have loved some help from VR for that one.

  3. megany says:

    Hey emilia, I know it’s always very terrifying for me too, no matter how many times I practice! I would definitely recommend trying it and hope it’s helpful to you, thanks for your feedback 🙂

  4. emilia bisogni says:

    I just had to do a presentation this morning and I was terrified! I would love to give this a go to try and tackle my fear. It doesn’t surprise me that 75% of people have glossophobia – its hard to find people that enjoy public speaking.

  5. megany says:

    Hey hugh, that’s true VR can be helpful for treating a few phobias! I’m not sure if it’ll be of help for every fear but it would be great if it could treat fear of snakes, I am absolutely terrified of them! I would definitely be willing to try VR for that phobia of mine also 🙂

  6. Hugh Rayner says:

    Apparently VR can help with a whole range of fears! But do you think this will translate well to real-life scenarios outside of public speaking? Fear of snakes, for example?