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Do You Even Know What You Are Afraid Of?

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We often talk about the fear of public speaking, but do we stop to think about what we are really afraid of? I would suggest that for most people it is not the act of speaking that is the problem. After all, most of us don’t have a problem speaking. Whether it is talking with one person, or in a group of friends, being afraid is not a common problem.  In fact most of us need to stop speaking and listen more...

So if we are not afraid of speaking, then there must be some other component that makes us afraid of “public speaking” – could it be the “public”?

Of course it is – and that confirms that we're not afraid of the speaking component.  We’re really afraid of the audience.

But why?

Does the audience have some sort of power or authority over us? Can they make are lives miserable if we fail even in the most minute way? In some cases the answer is a very real “yes”; however, those cases are rare and when they do exist the individuals can usually make our lives miserable whether we fail or not.

In most cases it’s something else.

Most of us are afraid of being humiliated:

  • Humiliated if we are boring.
  • Humiliated if we stutter.
  • Humiliated if we forget our material, even for a second. 
  • Or even humiliated because we can’t figure out what to do with our hands.
  • But what are the chances of this really happening? We don’t want to answer these questions, because we don’t want to face the fear; yet it is the unknown that makes it that much more terrifying?

For each of the humiliations I listed ask yourself what are the chances of it happening and what is the worst outcome?

For instance, what are the chances of being boring?

Well, you’re an interesting person to at least some people, right? You can carry on a conversation with your friends. Why is that?

It’s because you are communicating to them about their interests in a manner that is interesting to them. Hey! That previous statement had the word interest in it twice. Isn’t interest the opposite of boring? Yes it is – and at least some of the time you are interesting.

So how can you be interesting to your audience? The answer is simple – communicate to them about their interests in a manner that is interesting to them. Right?

In a manner that is interesting?  Yes, watch for more articles on this website about how to make your speeches relevant and captivating.  

And the other point; Communicate to them about their interests?  Yes. Have you been given a subject to speak about? If so, then answer the question, what’s the interests of your audience.  Once you know that, you can plan to speak about it.

So now that you know that you can be interesting and with a little preparation and practice you will be.

Now ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could happen, in the unlikely event that you are boring? Well probably – an audience member will walk out.

Although that can be a little distressing, it’s not as terrible as we build up our fear to be. If that actually happens, then look around for an audience member who is really captivated by your speech (remember, you’re using the techniques to captivate your audience by speaking to their interests). Finding such a person will help build you up far more than any audience member leaving could possibly deflate you.


If you are serious about conquering your fear, then take the time to consider the possible sources of humiliation. Think about each of them objectively and about how likely they are to occur (while looking for ways to reduce that likelihood) and what is the worst possible consequence of each of them?

David Mudie

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