The Irrational Fear of Public Speaking and Sharks

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According to the Book of Lists, public speaking ranks number one in the category of what we fear. For the majority of people, above the fear of death, comes the fear of standing in front of an audience. Until, that is, they are at the beach. Queue the Jaws music. (It's amazing how two notes played on a tuba can elevate fear.)

I first saw Jaws when I was 11 years old. For years, I was terrified of getting into water of any kind - rivers, lakes, swimming pools, bathtubs - for fear that a Great White shark would pull me under and snack on my right leg. And, yes, I knew it wasn't possible for sharks to survive in fresh water, but my fear knows no logic. Steven Spielberg's timeless classic about a killer shark might be irrational fear, but it gets me every time. Thirty-eight years later I still cannot go into the ocean without trepidation.

But, while a shark attack is undoubtedly a very scary thing, it is incredibly rare. Did you know that you are more likely to die falling out of bed? That's right - you are actually safer in the open water than you are in your own bed. Every year in the United States alone, about 450 people die falling out of bed. But how many times have I worried about my bed killing me? Never. Not once. Shouldn't I be more afraid of things that can actually happen? Why is it that we as humans have a tendency to fear worst case scenarios - things that usually do not happen?

Let's take the fear of public speaking: what is it that people actually fear about speaking in front of a crowd? Worst case scenario: being laughed off the stage, being booed, being bombarded with rotten eggs and tomatoes. But does that really ever happen? Outside of the movies? If you can make peace with the worst case scenario, you will take much of the fear out of the fear of public speaking.

Here's the truth about fear...

  • Fear only controls you when you give into it
  • The simple task of walking through your fear - doing what you fear, then doing it again - transforms your fear into courage
  • Fear is a habit. You can establish a new habit by faking it until you make it
  • Your fear rarely shows. And when it does show, it shows less than you think
  • Fear is rooted in perfectionism - accept that you are human and remember that vulnerability is an asset in effective communication.
  • Fear is normal
  • Fear can be transformed into one of your greatest tools...

At Ty Boyd, Inc., we help our clients disarm their fear and make it work for them. You can survive even your worst-case scenario; preparation and practice will see you through it. Give us a call, we'd love to help.

Taking your communication skills to the next level

While there are multiple places to get tips & tricks for public speaking, we believe hands-on-training is the way to truly master public speaking. If you are looking for proven techniques for preparing and delivering effective presentations; greater confidence in your presentation skills ability; and new tools for effective communication look no further. Excellence in Speaking Institute, our signature course, provides all of the above and each attendee also receives an individualized game plan for how to further improve and enhance their skills after the course.

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