Communication Apprehension, Fear of Presenting, Presentation Anxiety

Communication and Skills


Tendekai Dzinamarira
Manager, Zimbabwe

Communication Apprehension, Fear of Presenting, Presentation Anxiety

🔥NEW Presentations are important in business. They can be a true differentiator between success and failure of a business pitch, online webinar, investor confidence attraction, sales closure, etc.
The success or failure of a presentation depends to a large degree on how the information is being communicated. But at one time or another most of us have experienced presentation anxiety through feeling nervous, producing a shaky voice, sweating, having trembling fingers, and even having an increased heart beat. Oral presentation anxiety behaviors like these are caused by Communication Apprehension (CA).

What is Communication Apprehension (CA)? Definition

CA is a broad term which describes the anxiety or fear related to real or anticipated comunication with others. In other words, CA is a broadly based anxiety related to oral communication (McCroskey).

Types of Communication Apprehension. Sources

CA stems from many sources. McCroskey argues that there are four types of CA namely;
    This type of CA exists with people across situations and time periods. Trait anxiety is a personality type of CA whereby an individual has an orientation to feel anxiety during communication - regardless of the situation. The fear is part of one's natural behaviour. McCroskey and Beatty link this type to genetics known as communibiology while other scholars regard it as more of a personality trait acquired that can be changed.
    This is a communication anxiety triggered by a specific context, for example a formality communication context, which triggers low or high CA. Here a surrounding of uncertainty (e.g., novelty) can increase one's anxiety which can affect oral presentations.
    This is CA prompted by specific audience characteristics, for example the audience status, size and familiarity.
    This refers to psychological reaction of a person due to a specific situation (e.g., to have recently lost a loved one).

Typical Behaviors and Traits

People with high CA tend to:
  • AVOID COMMUNICATION. At workplaces, people with high CA often avoid job positions or tasks with high chances or potential of communication.
  • WITHDRAW COMMUNICATION. Where there is no room for avoiding communication, people with high CA withdraw communication by either maintaining total silence or performing only minimal communication, for example speaking only when asked to do so and using non verbal withdrawal communication messages like frowning, avoiding eye contact, and standing away from others.
  • DISRUPT COMMUNICATION. People with high CA may even disrupt communication through the use of both verbal and non verbal communication behaviors.

Ways to reduce Communication Apprehension

Researches on CA show that peer practice prior to the real presentation helps to reduce CA. The use of virtual reality is also cited as a solution towards building a sense of mastery or self-efficacy which results in improved perception of performance. Meditation and the use of certain (tranquilizing) drugs are also said to have the power to reduce CA.
⇨ Please add your comments. What do you think is required for one to deal with this communication anxiety?

McCroskey, J.C. and Beatty, M.J. (1986), "Communication Apprehension, Shyness", pp 279-293.
Beatty, M.J. and Behnke, R.R. (1980), "An assimilation theory perspective of communication apprehension", Human Capital Research.


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👀Communication Apprehension, Fear of Presenting, Presentation Anxiety

Communication and Skills

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