How To Conquer Your Greatest Fear

» Posted by on Dec 1, 2011 in Business Communications, Coaching, Leadership, Personal Development | 0 comments

The number one fear people have is speaking before a group of people.

Surveys tell us the fear of speaking is greater than the fear of dying.  To me, that makes speaking pretty important.

The ability to speak effectively is important to your personal, social, and professional growth and development, and to your self-confidence.

Do you feel totally at-ease speaking to a group of people?

Do you get a little nervous just thinking about having to speak to a group of people?

Now, be honest with yourself.  Do you simply panic at the thought of having to speak to a group of people?

I’m going to tell you a true story about a friend of mine.  I’ve known him more than 30 years, and the first time I ever saw him he said something interesting to me.  I was a Bible teacher at the time.  My class was comprised of young married couples, mostly newlyweds.

Bob (not his real name) and his wife were invited to the class by their friends who were members.    When Bob and his wife were introduced to me, he asked if he could speak with me out in the hallway.

He said, “I want to ask you for a personal favor.  Please, never call on me to say anything or answer any questions in class.”

He explained to me that he was scared to death to say anything in front of a group of people.   “If you do,” he said, “I’ll leave this class, and I’m never going to return.”

I promised him I wouldn’t ever call on him in class, and I honored his request.

But an interesting thing happened to Bob over the years.  He began to speak up in class voluntarily.  He later volunteered to coach our men’s basketball team.

Nobody has to speak to groups more than a coach.  And coaches need to be effective speakers too, if they want to win ballgames.

He also chaired several committees in the church from time to time.   He became an assertive and effective leader in our church.

I’ve analyzed Bob’s situation many times through the years, and I think he needed four things:

  1. He needed more knowledge of the subject, in that case the Bible.
  2. He needed to feel comfortable with the group; he learned the group didn’t know any more about the Bible than he did.
  3. He needed to know that nobody judged him harshly for speaking up, and that they accepted him and loved him anyway.
  4. He needed lots of practice.

Every audience you will ever speak to is the same way.  They aren’t going to be mean to you; they’re just grateful it’s you up there speaking and not them.  They admire you.

The ability to speak effectively is important.

There is no getting-around-it, the ability to speak effectively, whether to one person or to thousands of people, is a major factor in determining our personal, social, and professional development.  It certainly improved Bob’s self-confidence, and developed him into an effective and productive leader.

The ability to speak effectively is one of the most important skills a person can develop, if not THE most important. Speaking effectively is essential for leadership in any phase of life.

There are two major obstacles to effective speaking:

  1. Fear of speaking
  2. Poor speaking skills

The keys to overcoming these two obstacles are:

  • Knowledge
  • Skill
  • Practice

If you will learn to speak well, people will always think of you as a leader.

The thought of speaking to a group terrifies some people, or at best makes them uncomfortable. They are afraid of embarrassing themselves.  They’re afraid of boring their audience.  They’re afraid of appearing dumb.   They’re afraid of many things.

You can’t get around it.  Good speaking skills are important. They can help you work together better.  They can help you effectively develop and present ideas.  They can help you give better presentations, and enhance your self-confidence.

You don’t have to become a “public speaker.”

Public speaking is the least of the speaking responsibilities in business at any level of responsibility.

Business people have to interview employees, announce new products and services, explain public relations problems, rally the troops, give sales presentations, and speak at a myriad of occasions and under varied circumstances.

Think about it: meetings, luncheons, slide presentations–now they’re called PowerPoint presentations or Webinars, conventions, trade shows, reports, updates, employee meetings, sales and marketing presentations, volunteer meetings, service club talks, in the classroom, the list goes on.

Many people are totally at-ease speaking before a group of people, but lack the skills to speak effectively. They have difficulty organizing their thoughts or delivering their message clearly and concisely.  They can’t stay on topic.

They don’t know when to quit talking.  They bombard people with useless trivia, and repeat the same thoughts over and over.  They read from a prepared speech in a monotone that puts people to sleep and bores them silly.

To put this problem– not having an organized and well-thought-out speech — in proper perspective, I’ll tell you what another person said that has had a profound effect on my life.

Professor Willis Tucker, the head of the journalism department at The University of Tennessee, told me this when I was in school:

“If you can’t write it down, you haven’t thought it out.”

How brilliant is that?  Just the act of writing down our thoughts exposes them to light.  It reveals our thoughts for what they are–good or bad, half-baked or brilliant.
I prove Professor Tucker’s point every day as a professional writer who not only writes for publication, but writes gives speeches as well.

The good news is that there is help available through Toastmasters International.  Join a local chapter.  You can find one online at And it costs about $100 a year to belong.

Bob, whom I told you about earlier — didn’t get comfortable by attending Toastmasters meetings, but the very same thing happened to him in that class and in his church that happens in Toastmasters.

Toastmasters helps people build self-confidence and develop speaking skills in a friendly, positive environment, no matter your comfort level or your skill level.  Toastmasters enhances your speaking skills, your self-confidence, and your quality of life.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that helps people develop communication skills. This is done at local Toastmasters clubs. There are no instructors or professors, and there are no tests or grades.

Toastmasters clubs meet weekly.  A meeting usually lasts an hour and includes:

  •  Opportunities to practice impromptu speaking.
  • Several prepared speeches based on projects from the manuals provided by Toastmasters International
  • Evaluations, during which club members give feedback to each speaker regarding the presentation’s strengths and weaknesses and offer suggestions for improvement

This simple program works.  More than 4 million people have benefited from it since it began in 1924.

It will help you, if you want to become a more effective speaker.

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