The Impact of the Fear of Speaking
“Michael, I’m afraid to speak in front of others. I’m afraid I’ll mess up, or embarrass myself.”
This is a fairly typical reason people give me for avoiding public speaking. What they’re really doing is asking a question: “What will it cost me if I do this?”
They’re asking the wrong question. What they should be wondering is, “What will it cost me if I don’t speak?”
Changing Your Focus About Speaking
Most people look at an activity and focus on the pain of doing it. For instance, salespeople may think about prospecting for new clients and focus on the pain of hearing ‘no.’
By the way, when I say cost, I don’t mean financial cost. True, money can be a determining factor in partaking in any endeavor, but the more important cost is the emotional cost.
Think about an opportunity you’ve had in your life that you didn’t take advantage of:
- A job that you wanted to apply for
- A person you wanted to go out with
- A city you thought about moving to.
Perhaps at the time, you were afraid of making a mistake, failing, or the negative opinions of others.
The Opportunities Created by Speaking
To be an effective public speaker may be one of those opportunities where you risk experiencing those same emotions. But, what could you lose if you don’t learn, or improve this skill?
Perhaps you’ll miss opportunities to accelerate your career.
What about prospective clients for your business whom you’ll never meet?
Or, the regret of living with the question ‘What If?’
That last point is the most important. The great speaker Jim Rohn once said, “The pain of action weighs ounces compared to the pain of regret, which weighs tons.”
My Story of Avoiding My Speaking Dream
I know this feeling all too well. For 24 years, a little voice kept nagging at me to be a professional speaker. Although I dabbled in the field, I allowed fear to keep me from completely diving in.
After a short, unexpected hospital stay, and reading Jim Rohn’s quote, I realized I was living in regret… a cost I was no longer willing to pay.
After leaving the hospital, I took action, and unexpected opportunities began to open up… traveling to Baltimore to co-lead a Storytelling workshop with my mentors. Being asked to co-host a worldwide tele-seminar with some of the leading speakers in the world.
There certainly isn’t anything special about my story. On the contrary, I took far too long to pursue my desire to speak. I allowed fear to create regret in my life.
Whether you are a novice, considering venturing into the world of speaking, or an experienced pro ‘stuck in a rut,’ I urge you to avoid my mistake. Look at the benefits you can receive from speaking [and doing it well] and sharing your message. While you’re at it, think about the cost if you don’t. Who knows, you could avoid regret and a terrific new world of unexpected opportunities might open up for you.
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