Let us set the scene: you’re about to deliver a presentation to a large group of people. How do you feel? Thoroughly terrified or totally tranquil? If you’re reading this, you’re probably somewhat closer to ‘terrified’ than calm and composed. For most of us, public speaking induces anxiety to some extent (fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias), inducing symptoms ranging from slight nervousness to more severe heart palpitations, breathing difficulties and an inability to speak. Perhaps you have to deal with these symptoms regularly and have tried a variety of remedies that promise to help overcome the symptoms derived from a fear of public speaking. Natural hemp-derivative CBD has gained attention lately as a useful supplement for anxiety reduction, so could CBD help control nerves when it comes to public speaking? In this article, we’ll take a look at the power of CBD and how to use it to gain confidence, calmness and clarity of mind before and during your next presentation or public performance.
Glossophobia: The Fear of Public Speaking
Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. It is an incredibly common phobia that affects many people, regardless of age or experience, and can cause feelings of anxiety, stress, and self-consciousness when giving a speech or presentation in front of an audience, impairing their ability to communicate. People with glossophobia may experience physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, dry mouth and a racing heart, as well as emotional symptoms such as embarrassment, nervousness, and a fear of being judged. This may happen frequently if you are often required to deliver presentations at work or raise points at meetings, or on infrequent occasions such as a job interview, spoken exam or delivery of a wedding speech. Even in the COVID-19/post-COVID-19 era, where plenty of public speaking environments have transitioned to digital spaces and online platforms, many people remain fearful of speaking to a large audience even if that crowd is less visible.
While glossophobia can be a challenging condition to overcome, many techniques and treatments can help, such as therapy, self-help techniques, public speaking practice and natural remedies.
What Causes Public Speaking Anxiety?
Several factors can contribute to the development of public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia. Some of the most common causes include:
- Fear of judgement: Many people with glossophobia are afraid of being judged by their audience and worry about what others will think of them (social anxiety).
- Negative past experiences: If someone has had a bad experience while speaking in public, such as forgetting their lines or being criticised, it can contribute to a fear of public speaking.
- Performance anxiety: Some people may feel anxious about their performance and worry about not living up to their own or others' expectations.
- Lack of experience: People who have limited experience with public speaking may feel anxious about being in front of an audience.
- Physical symptoms: Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, red blotches on the face, neck and chest, trembling hands and a quavering voice, which may be noticeable to the audience and embarrassing for the speaker. This often contributes to and heightens the fear of public speaking.
- Personality traits: Some personality traits, such as introversion or perfectionism, can make a person more prone to public speaking anxiety.
It's worth noting that glossophobia can also be a combination of these and other factors, and the root cause can vary from person to person. The resulting fear triggers the well-known ‘fight or flight response’, whereby the body releases stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which are intended to help you escape danger. (This is a useful, innate response in the event of confrontation by a wild, ferocious animal, but not so helpful during a speech. Unfortunately, the body can’t always distinguish between the two stressful events.)
Seeking professional help, such as therapy, for public speaking nerves can help individuals identify the specific causes of their anxiety and develop strategies to overcome it.
What is CBD and How Does It Work?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its well-known relative, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not produce the “high” commonly associated with marijuana use. Instead, it is believed to have several potential wellbeing benefits, including reducing anxiety, alleviating pain and improving sleep.
CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors and neurotransmitters that play a role in regulating various functions, including mood, sleep, and pain perception. CBD is thought to influence the endocannabinoid system by increasing the levels of naturally occurring cannabinoids in the body, which can help to balance the body and mind and improve overall wellness.
While research on the effects of CBD is still in its early stages, early studies have shown promise for its potential to help with anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and other conditions. It is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the effects of CBD and how it works and that it should not be used as a substitute for traditional medical treatments or advice (it’s always worth speaking to a healthcare professional before starting CBD if you are unsure about taking it).
How Can CBD Help With Public Speaking?
CBD is widely regarded as being an effective supplement for positively reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety, and this is supported by an abundance of preclinical and clinical evidence. Since fear of public speaking is a form of social anxiety and causes many of the regular symptoms associated with anxiety, we can apply the use of CBD for anxiety to glossophobia.
As discussed earlier, CBD reduces stress by interacting with the body’s ECS. This interaction regulates those hormones that are released during the fight or flight response – adrenaline and cortisol – inducing a more chemically balanced body and mind. This hormone balance gives you a better chance at controlling your nerves; for instance, maintaining a steady heart rate, reducing sweating, keeping calm, and enabling clarity of mind. All of these factors are conducive to communicating confidently and effectively with your audience.
What’s the Evidence?
In a 2011 study of the effects of CBD oil on public speaking anxiety, anxious participants of a simulated public speaking test were given CBD oil or a placebo before delivering a presentation. Their speeches were recorded and psychologically analysed, with measurements of anxiety taken before, during and after the presentations. The participants who were supplemented with CBD before public speaking showed a significant reduction in physical and psychological anxiety symptoms and discomfort, as well as enhanced cognitive performance. Another 2019 study showed that out of 56 participants undergoing a public speaking test, the participants who took CBD oil before the test had reduced social anxiety symptoms.
Which CBD Product Should I Use and When Should I Take It?
One of the great things about CBD is that there is a multitude of product types on the market to suit a variety of preferences. CBD can be taken as an oral/sublingual oil, as an edible such as a fruity CBD gummy or a capsule or as a CBD vape. CBD oils are supremely popular; these can be swallowed, but the most effective way to take CBD oil is to hold it under the tongue for at least 60 seconds to allow the compound to enter the bloodstream quickly and bypass the lengthy digestive process. If you require the calming effects of CBD quickly, we’d highly recommend a high-quality broad-spectrum CBD oil.
CBD edibles offer a discreet and often tasty method of taking CBD. However, these take longer to take effect than CBD oils, so allow 1-2 hours before your speech if this is your preferred method.
CBD-infused vape juice is a great option for those who enjoy vaping or smoking. Vaporising CBD allows the effects to kickstart quickly, so great for calming the nerves right before your presentation. However, if you’re not already a smoker or vaper, you might prefer to use CBD oil or edibles.
CBD Dosage for Public Speaking Anxiety
Here comes the tricky part: CBD dosage. One size does not fit all when it comes to dosing. Depending on factors such as body mass, metabolism and method of ingestion, some people require very little CBD whereas others may require much more. The key here is to figure out your ideal dosage in advance of your public speaking event. Begin with a small dose daily over a few weeks and notice any changes that may result. If more CBD is required, gradually increase your dosage and carefully notice the effects. Do this until you have reached your optimal dose. The Food Standards Agency UK (FSA) roughly advises 70mg CBD per day, but the optimum dose varies greatly from person to person.
Additional Benefits of CBD
In addition to stress relief, what other benefits are there to including CBD regularly in your wellness routine? We’ve touched upon a few advantages already, but CBD can potentially help with:
- Pain relief
- Reduced inflammation
- Better focus and concentration
- Enhanced post-exercise muscle recovery
- Nausea relief
- Skin hydration
This truly versatile natural compound has an incredible ability to improve lives in a myriad of ways and is widely regarded as a well-tolerated extract with a high safety profile, meaning you are unlikely to experience severe unpleasant side effects.
What Else Can Help with Public Speaking Nerves?
In addition to CBD, there are a number of techniques you can try to manage your anxiety before and during a public performance or speech.
- Preparation: Prepare thoroughly for your talk. Knowing your material inside and out can boost your confidence.
- Practice: Practice your speech in front of a mirror, friends or family members, or record yourself and watch it to identify areas for improvement.
- Positive self-talk: Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Remind yourself of your strengths and past successes.
- Deep breathing: Take deep breaths before you begin speaking to calm your nerves and regulate your breathing.
- Visualisation: Visualise yourself giving a successful talk. Imagine the audience being attentive and receptive.
- Focus on the present moment: Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, focus on the present moment and engage with your audience.
- Address your fears: Identify what specifically causes your anxiety and develop strategies to manage it.
- Relaxation techniques: Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, mindfulness or yoga to calm your mind and body before speaking.
- Seek support: Talk to friends, family, or a mental health professional about your concerns. They can provide encouragement and support.
Remember, everyone experiences anxiety to some extent and it is normal. By using these techniques and/or using natural supplementation such as CBD, you can develop the skills to manage your public speaking anxiety and become a more confident speaker.