- Part 1 – [You Are Here] Top 10 Fears of Public Speaking
- Part 2 – Face Your Fear of Public Speaking
- Part 3 – Make Public Speaking as Easy as Brushing Your Teeth
Everyone has heard the statistics:
The fear of public speaking is worse than the fear of death. Is that really true? Is the fear of public speaking a reality? And if it is true, is it really possible to overcome that fear?
A Gallup poll confirmed that the greatest fear of 40 percent of Americans is public speaking. It comes as no surprise that many of the people who consult me for help in making presentations express such concerns. The problem is, you can’t conquer your fear until you first understand what it looks like and how to detect it…
I’ll never forget when one of my future clients came up to me after my very first Presto presentation and said…
“No other advice you give me will matter until I can overcome my fear, once it sets in, I can’t think about anything else.”
The place to start is understanding where your fear comes from.
Where does this fear of public speaking come from? What are its components?
If you say, “I’m afraid of sharks,” it may not be the animal itself that’s your problem but the whole scenario you conjure up when thinking of a shark attack, the fear of being taken by surprise, of seeing the menacing look in the shark’s eyes, of knowing how powerless you’d be to defend yourself, of being injured or killed.
After speaking to thousands of people about their presentation fears, I have heard all sorts of reasons why people are afraid of public speaking. On the surface, I often hear things like…
“I’m afraid of making a mistake in delivering the presentation: stumbling over words, forgetting what I meant to say, inadvertently skipping over a portion, or misspeaking in some other way.”
“I’m afraid of being humiliated by appearing inept, awkward, and uneasy to my audience. That not only would be personally embarrassing but also would undermine my credibility as a presenter.”
“I’m afraid of failing at my main purpose: connecting with the audience and delivering the message effectively.”
What about you? What are you afraid will happen up there? Sometimes just the idea of speaking in public causes severe anxiety and sleeplessness. Often the fear is based on a previous bad experience.
Some speakers tell me they’ve been so anxious during a presentation that they’ve suffered a loss of memory or “blackout” and couldn’t even recall their performance.
When you really dive into the bottom of the fears that you just wrote down, it turns out that almost all of the fears of public speaking boil down to ten common reasons, when you analyze these reasons, you can figure out which one is your main culprit.
We’ll do that for you in just a second, and when you figure that out, it can open up a whole new world of public speaking for yourself. That can open up doors for you.
The good news is that no matter what your fear is…there’s some easy fixes to overcome it and get up there and “public speak” with the best of them. I’ll share those with you in parts 2 and 3 of this blog.
As I go through this list, see if you can figure out which fear is the actual culprit for you and your fear of public speaking.
Top 10 Fears of Public Speaking
1. Fear of failure…
2. Fear of inadequacy…
3. Fear of leadership…
4. Fear of competition…
5. Fear of embarrassment…
6. Fear of selling…
7. Fear of people…
8. Fear of futility…
9. Fear of self…
10. Fear of success…
1. Fear of Failure
The fear of failing can be paralyzing – it can cause us to do nothing, and simply stop moving forward. But when we allow fear to stop us from moving forward, we can miss some big open doors.
It can get so bad that we decide to not try at all, or we even subconsciously bombard our very own efforts because we’re trying to avoid an even bigger failure later on.
2. Fear of Inadequacy
It’s so easy for us to come up with reasons why we’re inadequate isn’t it? We try to keep ourselves inspired whenever we feel a little shaky.
We might even come up with reasons we feel others are inadequate just so we don’t feel so bad. How much time do you spend trying to keep that feeling of inadequacy away? Trying to keep your self-esteem above water?
3. Fear of Leadership
Mastering public speaking requires some element of leadership.
We are leading an audience. And, as a leader, you have to speak to your team. How can you expect your audience or team to take action if you can’t speak in front of them confidently? The more you do it, the more confident you will be. The more speaking you do, the more confidence you will have in most any situation.
4. Fear of Competition
Competition is a part of life, but it’s a big challenge for those who haven’t faced it much before, or who have faced it and haven’t seen positive tables of success. Many times a fear of competition is really a fear of perfectionism.
Athletes are a great example, and we as public speakers can learn from them. Most of the time, an athletes fear is about avoiding poor results whether prior to or during a performance. Athletes often fear the negative consequences of a poor or less than perfect performance. Athletes worry about letting their team or coach down. They worry about disappointing a parent or not performing up to a parent’s expectations. They worry about many things that are often not under their direct or immediate control and a lot of this worry is unnecessary.
5. Fear of Embarrassment
Making mistakes is part of life. But making mistakes in front of an audience often brings a sense of embarrassment. Fearing this embarrassment will invariably cause you even more humiliation. Embarrassment happens when you believe that others see you as a fool, stupid, or not-relevent. To put it simply, embarrassment is a feeling of rejection.
6. Fear of Selling
For most small-business owners, the “selling process” is a challenge. Especially when it comes to pitching their product or service.
Many entrepreneurs struggle with “selling” and it shows up when they speak in public, it shows up as a lack of confidence in themselves or their product, fear of failure and fear of closing the deal. The good news: these fears can be overcome with the proper attitude, training and practice.
7. Fear of People
Another name for this is social anxiety. It’s the fear of social situations and the interaction with other people and it can cause feelings of self-consciousness, judgment, evaluation, and scrutiny.
If you seem fine when you are alone, but you’re anxious in social situations, then “fear of people” may be the problem. In the United States, epidemiological studies have recently pegged social anxiety disorder as the third largest psychological disorder in the country.
8. Fear of Futility
Have you ever feared that your efforts will be futile?
Have you ever said to yourself: “I’m just one person, what can I do?”
That’s the fear of futility, and I’m here to tell you that as a public speaker, there’s a ton that you can do…(more on that later)…
9. Fear of Self
The fear of self is often an intense self-fear that is groundless. It’s really just fear of “putting yourself” out there. And just like with all the other fears we’ve discussed, there’s some simple fixes.
10. Fear of Success
The Fear of failure and the fear of success are often related and have the same anxiety symptoms.
But, the fear of success is deeper, and often more subconscious. That’s because success is more complex than failure. It can be more comfortable to stay in a familiar situation, even if it doesn’t feel great on the surface.
But achieving success often means you are entering uncharted territory. You are putting yourself out there to be scrutinized and criticized, and exposing yourself to new pressures and demands.
Have you ever found yourself on the verge of a big success, and noticed things starting to go wrong? The tiniest details irritate you. It becomes hard to concentrate. You find yourself procrastinating over things you know will lead to success. It’s only human to wonder whether you’ll be up to the challenge. A small anxious part of you would rather not take the risk.
It can also happen on stage.
You say something stupid in an important presentation like, “What’s wrong with me today?” You get into arguments with you’re an audience member, who wonders why you’re being so “touchy.”
All of these are classic symptoms of fear of success – a condition that is all the more dangerous because it’s so unexpected.
So, what do you do about all these fears?
We’ll answer that in part 2 and 3 of this blog series, but before I go, I want you to answer this question for yourself right now…
What’s Your #1 Fear of Public Speaking?