• Marc

Is Your Fear Of Public Speaking Holding Your Career Back?

Manager speaking to his team at a meeting

Is this you?

You wait for a chance to express your thoughts, feelings or ideas but when an opportunity lands in your lap, you can’t seem to find your voice and you remain completely silent. Someone else speaks up, they are lauded for their contribution and you are left behind wishing it was you.

Sounds familiar?

We all want to be heard. Yet, so many of us tremble at the thought of speaking in public.

It is a well-known statistic that over seventy percent of people fear public speaking and if you are one of them, know that you are not alone.

You might have valuable contributions to share at work but you often pass up on speaking opportunities because:

  • your nerves get the better of you

  • you are insecure about the way you sound

  • you are scared of making mistakes

  • you fear being judged by others

  • you feel that others may not take you seriously

Confident employee sharing ideas in a meeting

Whatever the reason may be, allowing yourself to silence your voice means that you are missing out on amazing opportunities in your professional life - and you are letting others get ahead by having their voices heard first.

Whether you are attending a job interview, sharing ideas during a meeting, or delivering a presentation to a client, the ability to communicate with confidence and make a lasting impression is a skill that many desire to have but unfortunately fall short of.

The truth is, fear is a such powerful emotion that often holds us back from reaching our full potential. Some of us may be looking to enter a new relationship, make a career switch or even start that new business - but the very thought of failure terrifies us from taking that first step.

Employee terrified of public speaking

Why is this so? Why are we so afraid to expose ourselves to the possibility of failing?

We are all fearful of something - whether it is public speaking or simply getting on a roller coaster. Fear is an inevitable emotion, but allowing that fear to cripple you from taking action to realise your goals and dreams is what you need to overcome.

So how can we build endurance and alleviate fear’s power over our lives?

I recently came across a TED Talk by American entrepreneur Tim Ferriss on “Why you should define your fears instead of your goals” - in which he offers valuable insights on managing fears within our control in high-stress environments, using an effective three-step “fear-setting” exercise.

It got me thinking about how this could be useful for anyone who is afraid of public speaking and if you are one of them, I encourage you to try this exercise out. Get a pen and paper, and write down whatever comes to mind using the three steps below:

Step 1: What if you…

Define - List down all the worst-case scenarios that could happen if you decided to face your fears and ask questions, share ideas or volunteer to present in a meeting.

Prevent - List down the different measures you could take to prevent the defined worst-case scenarios from happening.

Repair - List down all the ways you could fix the situation if any of the worst-case scenarios were to take place.

Step 2: Define the benefits

What might be the benefits of your attempt at speaking up at work? Your colleague might thank you for asking an important question in a meeting, your manager may recognise your efforts and give you more opportunities, or you might even realise that speaking up was not as bad as you thought. Write down all the benefits that you can think of.

Step 3: Cost of inaction

If you do let your fear stop you from taking the first step, what would the cost of inaction be in 6 months, 1 year and 3 years? Perhaps you may not get the pay raise you were hoping for or your colleague might end up getting the promotion you had your eyes on instead. Write down all the things you could miss out on if you were to allow your fear to get in the way.

This simple and effective exercise is a great way to envision and analyse whatever it is that is holding you back in your life, and to map out key strategies you can adopt to overcome self-paralysis and start taking action.

Finding the confidence to speak up can feel nerve-racking, but the simple truth is that you will likely have more to lose by keeping silent than you do getting your voice heard.

Employee overcoming his fear of public speaking and presenting with confidence

The next time an opportunity presents itself, silence the voice in your head that is holding you back. Embrace the possibility of failing and fall in love with the idea that taking action is the only way towards growth. If failure is on the cards, so is success - so why not give it a go?

Find the courage to face your fears and be heard because you never know what doors may open up for you in your career.