You’ve heard about ‘The List,’ haven’t you? The one that claims:
Public speaking is the #1 fear for most people!
Most people would rather die than give a speech!
Really? You’d rather die?
Somewhere along the way, this fear about public speaking has become an accepted fact. For many, this fear has become an ‘anchor’ that has held back personal and professional growth.
There’s only one problem. It’s not true.
After coaching speakers for six years, and overcoming my own fears about talking in front of others, I believe that there is a fear associated with public speaking, but it’s not the act of speaking itself.
Unless you have a physical issue, speaking is something you do every day, right? It’s not the talking part that creates the fear – it’s the thought that you might be embarrassed or humiliated while speaking to others that strikes terror in so many hearts.
How do I know this? My mother has often told me that when I was a kid, I’d tell her “Mom, I got to talk to the class today. I like it when people listen to me.” This is true. But what she forgets is that, I preferred to do this while sitting down. When I was six, I was punished in my first grade class for breaking a class rule, and that punishment became a 25-year anchor in my life.
My punishment for standing on a desk during recess was to…stand on my desk during nap time while my classmates slept [45 years later, I have yet to understand the logic of making me stand on my desk to punish me for standing on my desk. Isn’t that like a judge telling a bank robber to go robber another bank to teach him not to rob banks? But I digress].
Picture the scene: A darkened classroom, with the smell of chocolate chip cookies [our afternoon snack] wafting in the air. My classmates have laid their precious little heads on their desk in quiet repose. I am standing on my desk, feeling silly…for about 3 minutes.
That’s when my ‘sleeping’ classmates started peaking up at me, smiling, snickering and sticking their tongues out, mocking me. That’s when the embarrassment set in. Humiliation came after about 20 minutes. Even though I was towering above my classmates, I felt smaller and smaller with each passing minute.
The aftermath of this experience was that, even though I liked talking to others and making them laugh, I resisted every future opportunity to stand in front of a group and speak because I was afraid of reliving the humiliation of standing on that desk.
This anchor kept me from expressing my true nature and hindered my personal and professional growth.
It wasn’t until I joined Toastmasters International in 1994 that I discovered that my fear wasn’t unique, that public speaking is learned, and that it can also be the greatest tool to advance your career.
Once I learned how to manage my fears, and then the skills to develop and deliver meaningful presentations, I began to understand the power of the spoken word, and how it could help me and others.
Yes, there are misconceptions about public speaking, the biggest being that it’s the #1 fear. Once you realize the real fear associated with public speaking, you can mange those feelings, learn the necessary skills to become a speaker who inspires others, and break the chains of the ‘fear of speaking’ anchor.
If you or someone you know would like to learn how to overcome the nerves associated with public speaking, check out the recording Panic to Power. 3 World Champions and 1 Certified World Class Speaking Coach share their experiences of panic on the platform, and how to mange your own fear. To learn more, click here: Panic to Power