Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Fear of Public Speaking

The fear of public speaking is, arguably, the most pervasive in the culture.  According to some, the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of flying, the fear of falling, the fear of closed places, even the fear of death itself. 
Why is that?  What is it that we’re all so  very afraid of?
From past workshops we’ve heard a number of different things.  Among them, the fear of making a mistake in front of the group, the fear of losing our place in our talk, the fear of forgetting the points that we wanted to make, the fear of tripping and falling on the way to the front of the room, the fear of losing the interest of our audience, and on and on and on.  At bottom, though, it seems that the thing we fear most is the fear of public embarrassment.  And if we accept that this is the over-riding fear, suppose we were able to guarantee that we wouldn’t be embarrassed.  Would the fear go away?  Well, the bad news is that the fear never completely goes away. 
The legendary Bob Hope, who you may or may not be familiar with, was once asked if he ever got over the butterflies in his stomach caused by having to perform in front of thousands of people.  He responded that he never did … but that he learned to make them fly in formation.  That brings us to the good news.  While the fear never completely goes away, the fear never completely goes away.  The lesson to be learned is how to use the energy that the fear creates … and that’s all it really is, is energy … to your best advantage.
There are no secrets, there are no tricks, there is no magic.
There is only knowledge and understanding.
When you understand the fear and what, physiologically, is happening;  when you learn to embrace the fear;  your presentations, your interviews, your conversations, all of your interpersonal interactions become events that you look forward to.  When you learn to embrace the fear you feel a degree of control that you can’t understand until you’ve experienced it.  This is not a matter of conquering fear, it’s a matter of using fear to your advantage.  And once you’ve learned how ... you become unstoppable.  
Coming next – Harnessing the Energy of Fear

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