Are you afraid to speak in public? You are not alone…
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ― Jerry Seinfeld
Worse than Death
The fear of public speaking has been the topic of serious scientific investigation. One example is the article “Is Public Speaking Really More Feared Than Death?” by the researchers Karen Dwyer and Marlina Davidson, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. They say:
“This study found that public speaking was selected more often as a common fear than any other fear, including death.”
But why people are so afraid of public speaking? A possible explanation is given by dr. Glenn Croston in his article “The Thing We Fear More Than Death“:
“When faced with standing up in front of a group, we break into a sweat because we are afraid of rejection. And at a primal level, the fear is so great because we are not merely afraid of being embarrassed, or judged. We are afraid of being rejected from the social group, ostracized and left to defend ourselves all on our own. We fear ostracism still so much today it seems, fearing it more than death, because not so long ago getting kicked out of the group probably really was a death sentence.”
Everybody Wants to be a Great Speaker
If people in general are so afraid of public speaking, it is a paradox that so many people would like to be public speakers. Many books try to help people to become better speakers, and some of them are real best-sellers, such as “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by author Carmine Gallo. This is how the book is presented at Amazon:
“In his book, Carmine Gallo has broken down hundreds of TED talks and interviewed the most popular TED presenters, as well as the top researchers in the fields of psychology, communications, and neuroscience to reveal the nine secrets of all successful TED presentations. Gallo’s step-by-step method makes it possible for anyone to deliver a presentation that is engaging, persuasive, and memorable.”
Very nice. But does it really need to be so complicated? Do we really need to understand “psychology, communications and neuroscience” to become better speakers?
So, what is the secret to become a good speaker? How can you defeat your fear to face an audience?
My approach is very simple: I try to speak in public as much as possible. Actually in general I seize most opportunities I’m given to speak in public. As a result, after several years speaking in public frequently, in general I’m not afraid anymore.
In 3 words: Practice Makes Perfect!
Below some pictures of audiences I faced this month: South Korean students visiting the Technion and Brazilian students participating in the Taglit project. I did not fear talking to them. Actually it was lots of fun!