Private Jackson is a dedicated soldier, but is having a difficult time with personal struggles. One frigid morning, he makes a rash decision to go AWOL, believing he would quickly be forgotten.

But, the military searched for him because his absence caused operational delays and strife within his unit. At the same time, Jackson struggles in civilian life, eventually realizing the consequences of his actions.

Military justice eventually catches up with him, strips him of his rank and privileges, and leaves him facing an uncertain future tainted by dishonor and regret. He has paid a steep price for going AWOL.

What in the world does this have to do with speaking in front of an audience?

In a military context, AWOL stands for “Absent Without Leave.” It refers to a situation where a member of the armed forces abandons their duty station or assignment without proper authorization.

As you can see, in the example above, the consequences can be severe.

The Speakers Equivalent Of Going AWOL

Public speaking is often listed at or near the top of every list of common fears.

This makes sense, right? Everybody knows public speaking is a terrifying experience.

But, why is it considered our #1 fear?

There are various opinions, such as:

  1. An embarrassing experience in front of a group, especially when you are young
  2. Society has convinced us to be afraid
  3. Fear of failure

However there are two deeper fears that trigger speaking anxiety:   

1. Fear of public humiliation

2. Fear of walking into a room full of strangers.

What is public speaking?

It’s the potential to be humiliated in front of a room full of strangers.

But when you think about, it, isn’t this irrational? Every day, we engage in one-on-one conversations, or in small groups — at work, in social gatherings, or over a meal. Those situations don’t scare us.

But, our perspectives change when we stand up to speak in front of a group. The stomach tightens, sweat begins to flow, and fear grips us.


Yes, we’re afraid of making mistakes, looking foolish, and feeling embarrassed.

Which is why many leaders consistently pass up on speaking opportunities.

But there’s a deeper reason.

Blame Your Ancestors

Go back thousands of years, before technology of any kind existed.

To survive, our ancestors lived together in packs. Usually they stayed in camouflaged areas, caves, or in a forest. They had to be careful how they behaved, because if they did anything that gave away their location or draw attention to the group, they were all in danger.

If you made a spectacle of yourself, did something embarrassing or humiliating, you could be ostracized from your small clan. With no available weapons, GPS to steer you away from danger, or James from Uber to spirit you away to safer envrions, being ostracized meant death.

This was our early ancestors version of going AWOL:

A: Alone

W: Without a Weapon

O: Out in the Open

L: Looked at by Large groups of potential predators.

What is public speaking?

You’re alone in front of an audience.

You’re without a weapon (no, a microphone doesn’t count).

You’re in an open area.

A group of people is looking at you.

At a subconscious level, your brain is sending this message:


Predators are waiting!

They’ll eat you!

Run away!

This doesn’t make logical sense. But, we’re dealing with primal emotions, which don’t come with an On/Off switch.

How Do You Overcome This Challenge?

Anytime you’re in a speaking situation, remember:

  • The people in your audience aren’t starving. They’ve eaten in the past few hours. (If you’re not sure how long it’s been since they’ve had a meal, pay to feed them while you speak. This ensures they will have full bellies and won’t think about devouring you when your presentation ends).
  • People today are busy. They’re not taking their precious time to see you fail. They want you to succeed.
  • They have problems they can’t solve on their own. They want your wisdom, insights, and help, they may even be desperate for it.
  • They empathize with you and admire that you have the guts to stand up and speak. Most people wish they could do this but never will.
  • Stop worrying about being perfect, how your clothes look, and whether your hair is perfect. It ain’t about you, it’s about them. They’re too busy focusing on their lives and problems. If you provide valuable insights, they’re not thinking about the minor mistakes you make.

These aren’t all the ideas, but they’ll help you keep perspective.

Public speaking isn’t your number one fear. It’s a combination of other fears that you can manage.

Unlike the military, if you go AWOL from speaking opportunities, you won’t be stripped of rank, privileges or dishonored. But, your reputation could be damaged, you could miss out on opportunities, and your career growth may be significantly stalled.

The next time you have to stand up and give a presentation, keep it in perspective.

You’re not speaking to the United Nations about a global threat.

You have expertise, insights and solutions people need.

Prepare. Give your best effort. Focus your attention and energy on the benefit you bring the audience.

Do this, and your nervousness about speaking won’t control you. Instead you’ll leave a positive and lasting impression on your next audience. And safely return some to your clan.


Do You Want To Become A Paid Speaker?

Many people love the idea of getting paid to stand before an audience to share their wisdom and inspire them.

But, there are so many barriers to entry to this world and so many conflicting ideas that people have no ideas where to start, and how to avoid the expensive trial-and-error of entering this lucrative world.

If you are serious about becoming a well-paid speaker, attend the upcoming event ‘Game Changers’ hosted by Darren LaCroix of Stage Time University. You will meet and learn from veteran speakers who are experts in their fields. Hall of Fame professional speakers, a veteran head comedy writer of well know TV shows, and an expert booking agent who works with high-fee speakers.

To learn more about the event, and to register, CLICK HERE.

As an added Bonus, if you register for the event, I’ll include a one-hour coaching session ($500 value). We can work on your presentation, speech, or story — whatever you choose to focus on.

Attend this event and add rocket fuel to your professional speaking career.


What Is It Costing You To Go AWOL With Speaking Opportunities ultima modifica: 2024-02-16T11:35:19-05:00 da Michael Davis