Death Over Public Speaking

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Our plant manager, during a meeting to discuss the statewide tornado warning drills, took the opportunity to inform his Manufacturing Supervisors that they would begin personally training their direct reports on subjects that we have all been taking via web based training. Subjects like Sexual Harassment, Codes of Conduct, Information Security, and etc.

Hourly employees do not have access to the same online resources that the support staff do. Due to COVID19 occupancy restrictions we have not been able to get everyone together in auditorium style training. To catch up we will train them in Work Center sized groups.

The announcement was met by a low groan from most of us in the room…

…most of us except for R Dub, of course, who promptly said; “I like to train.”

That response was immediately met with my direct manager saying; “Good you can do all of it.” A response that pleases me immensely…until his boss said that he would prefer that each supervisor train their own people.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health a full 75% of people say that they fear public speaking more than they fear death. I find this statistic unfathomable. Holding a hot microphone is one of my favorite activities.

The medical term for a fear of public speaking is glossophobia from the Greek words glossa which means tongue and phobia that means fear or dread. Glossophobia is a completely unbiased ailment that effects all genders, races, creeds, colors and religions equally.

In reality it is doubtful that given multiple choice responses to the question; “What do you fear the most?” that people would choose death over public speaking. But, when the question was posed as fill in the blank, the first thing that popped into 75% of people’s minds was public speaking.

There are some tried and true ways to alleviate the anxiety and fear associated with public speaking. Here are mine.

  1. Know your subject matter. There is no better way to be confident than to know that you are prepared and “THE” expert on the subject at hand. Research and study.
  2. Practice. I can’t emphasize this enough. Write out what you plan to say and begin to speak it well before the moment of truth. Case in point. I gave a eulogy at my father’s funeral. My fear was breaking down while reading it and not being able to finish the eulogy. The words that I planned to say were written out and edited. Once the words satisfied my expectations I read it aloud to my mom and Beth. There were two spots that did make me break down while practicing. So, a mental note was made to skip them if need be. On the day of the funeral the eulogy was given, I barely used my notes because the words came from my heart and poured out until saying goodbye at the end…and…my father was 93 when he died, I’d been writing the eulogy in my head for years.
  3. Have an end game. Not knowing when to stop talking is a common mistake that I see unprepared speakers commit. This is where planning and writing out what you plan to say is crucial.
  4. A common practice to quell fear while speaking in public is to find a focal point and use it. For some it may be a clock at the back of the room. For me it is finding a friendly and attentive face. I’ve only needed to do this once. It was while announcing for the Beaverland MustSki water-ski show team. We were hired by the city of Pittsburgh to perform 6 shows at their annual Independence Day celebration where the rivers meet. Our final show was directly before the big fireworks show prior to dusk on the 4th of July. The crowds that had been a couple of thousand to see the first 5 shows grew to over 50,000. Instead to thinking about how large the crowd was I spotted a family that had been at several other shows and concentrated on them. It worked like a charm.

Speaking is rewarding. If given the chance, please do not shy away from it.

Saying goodbye to dad at the end of the eulogy.

Published by R Dub's Rub

Conversational BLOG writer and contributing writer for LocaLeben magazine. My BLOG entries represent observations that intrigue, amuse, inspire or stimulate my appetite.

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