fear of public speaking

Fear of public speaking consistently tops every list of human fears. In an often-cited 1993 study done by the polling firm Bruskin-Goldring, forty five percent of those surveyed said they feared public speaking. Thirty percent said they feared death.1 In a study of 3,000 American published in the Book of Lists the number one fear cited by forty one percent of those studied was speaking to an audience.2

Why do we have a fear public speaking?

Many factors can contribute to a fear of public speaking but a crucial one is a fear of outcomes.

When we stand in front of an audience to speak fear emerges when we have a tenuous3 relationship with the message we want to communicate to them; when the relationship we have with the audience has priority over the relationship we have with our message. Either because we don’t believe in what we are about to say; we are not committed to the message or because we believe more strongly in the expectations4  we think the audience will have of our oral communication performance. Audiences come equipped with an agenda. Either you satisfy5 that agenda or you challenge it.

Fear of  public speaking is a fear of consequences. 

What can we do to overcome a fear of pubic speaking?

Own the message you communicate to your audience live and orally, own all the thoughts and ideas; own all the words and importantly, own the relationship you create with the audience when communicating your message live. Own the consequences;  own the outcome of your oral communication performance.

You can’t communicate live and orally someone else’s message.

In public speaking or live oral communication the relationship you have with the message being communicated is crucial to your ability to communicate it without fear.

Fear comes from a relationship that for whatever reason (emotional, professional, commercial) is stronger  with your audience than it is with your message. Believe in what you are about to communicate to your audience when you stand to speak and believe in your role in the outcome. Or don’t stand to speak.

In oral communication or public speaking your commitment to your message has to be greater than your commitment to your audience.  


© 2014 Pamela Neil all rights reserved. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela Neil with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
  1. http://joyfulpublicspeaking.blogspot.co.uk/
  2. David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace and Amy Wallace,  The Book of Lists, 1993, Brown, Little. USA
  3. tenuous – insignificant; meagre, weak; vague.
  4. expectation – a preconceived idea of what will happen, what someone or something will turn out to be. J.Butler – Our expectations that others will act so and so in such circumstances.
  5. satisfy – II with reference to feelings or desires. 4. verb trans. a) Fulfil the desire or expectation of; be accepted by (a person, his or her taste, judgement, etc.) as adequate; content.

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