Fear of Public Speaking

Public Speaking: A Fear Greater Than Death

By Mike Gatzke, Steve Moericke, Joe Pichotta, Rob Rice

The fear of public speaking is ranked higher than the fear of death, according to a 2007 survey by Speak for Success, a presentation coaching firm based out of California. Extreme nervousness is a side-affect that many people experience when speaking before an audience. However harsh the reality of it may sound, conquering the fear of public speaking is something that employees need to master in order to move up the employment chain.

But anyone can be a great speaker, according to Business Communications Department Chair Dr. Jack Hoggatt.

Being a confident public speaker is critical because everybody must speak before an audience at some point in his or her life. According to Jennifer Holubar, a senior public relations major, “The ability to speak in public is becoming very important and more stressed upon when applying for a job, and other situations because having good communication skills is a common trait that a majority, if not all, employers are looking for when hiring.”

Becoming a great public speaker does not happen overnight. Practicing the following tips can help enhance public speaking skills:

  • Practice More:
    Confident speakers know their materials well. Speakers should practice out loud, and if possible, practice at the location where the speech will be given. Dr. Hoggatt advises students in his classes to follow the rule, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

  • Slow Down:
    Taking a deep breath is a good way to relax. Speakers should make sure they use proper enunciation and correct tone. When somebody speaks too fast, they are more likely to make mistakes. Pausing to think is also important. Although pausing may seem like it takes a long time to the speaker, it seems natural to your audience.

  • Build Rapport:
    Mingling is a great way to get comfortable with the audience before the speech. Depending on the situation, using humor can help a speaker relax and also grab the audience’s attention.

  • Make Eye Contact:
    Making eye contact shows confidence and connects the speaker with the audience.

  • Enjoy The Topic:
    If a speaker does not enjoy the topic, he or she can adopt a personality to compliment it. Speakers are more fun to watch if they look like they are having fun.

Being put into uncomfortable situations and taking risks is important because it builds confidence. The College of Business offers business communication (BCOM) courses to provide students with opportunities to develop presentation skills. In business communication lecturer Keith Stearn’s classroom, students are offered a safe place where they can practice their public speaking skills and not feel judged.

Some other causes of nervousness include the fears of embarrassment, failure, and judgment. When speaking in front of a group it is important to remember that most people in the audience are probably afraid of public speaking themselves. Being a bit nervous for a presentation or speech is a good thing. If speakers are not nervous, they could be uninterested in the topic and their speeches may lack enthusiasm.

The Business Communications website offers video vignettes which demonstrate powerful public speaking approaches and give advice to students and faculty. For more information, the website for Business Communications has been provided in the link below.

» View BCOM resources webpage


Mike Gatzke Steve Moericke Joe Pichotta Rob Rice

Mike Gatzke, far left, is a senior marketing major from White Bear Lake, MN; Steve Moericke, middle left is a senior marketing major from Wausau, WI; Joe Pichotta, middle right, is a senior spanish business major from Lino Lakes, MN; Rob Rice, far right, is a senior marketing major from Stillwater, MN. They wrote this article for their BCOM Advanced Writing class

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