How "Fear of Speaking" Can Make You a Better Speaker
Fear of public speaking is the number one apprehension in the United States. This was
pointed out in a survey of 3,000 Americans by the Sunday Times of London in 1973. The
findings have been verified by countless other surveys and studies.
The Times survey found that 41 percent of the respondents listed "fear of public speaking"
as their number one fear, while 19 percent listed "death."
For the businessperson, either in a small company or a large corporation, the ability to
speak coherently and persuasively is a vital skill, but "fear of speaking" holds many
otherwise competent people back.
Fear of speaking can be a disaster for the sales person, but it need not be so. Speaking
skills are easy to acquire once the fear of speaking is controlled.
In the hundreds of workshops I have conducted, I have found a high percentage of
intelligent people becoming apprehensive at the prospect of giving a presentation.
If you suffer from that same anxiety, rest assured you are in the main stream of the
American public. In this article, I'll provide advice on how to make this nervousness
work to your advantage so that you actually become a better public speaker.
Don't Kill the Butterflies
Among the physical manifestations of nervousness can be a queasiness frequently labeled
"butterflies in the stomach." Someone in the field of speech training once said you
didn't want to kill the butterflies; get them flying in formation.
I certainly agree with the basic premise of controlling, not eliminating, nervousness.
I find it disheartening to see or hear colleagues and competitors in the field of
presentation skills training promise in their books or workshops that if you only buy
their book or attend their workshop, you will never again fear speaking in public.
That is absolute rubbish and dishonest huckstering. It causes people to make overcoming
stage fright their main objective. I have seen many nervous speakers do an excellent
job because they believed in their message, and I have seen speakers so calm it seemed
rigor mortis had set in.
Their calmness made them appear indifferent, and they bombed. You want to be somewhat
nervous. It releases the adrenaline that gets you "pumped," that shows passion and
enthusiasm. It is the same as the pre-game jitters of athletes which allows them to perform.
These athletes are converting nervousness to energy. Presenters must make the same
conversion of what is frequently called stage fright into positive energy which
demonstrates the presenter's belief in his or her message.