Feeling nervous about presenting at that next meeting, trade show, client appreciation event, or conference? Have no fear: You are not alone. Public speaking is the No. 1 human fear, according to “The Book of Lists” – ahead of height, insects, financial problems, deep water, sickness, death, flying, loneliness, and dogs. Can you believe death ranked seventh? So, according to Jerry Seinfeld, we would rather be in the casket at a funeral than delivering the eulogy.
Heck, I can relate to all of this. I was deathly afraid of public speaking in my college days (pun intended). In fact, I failed out of a communication class simply because I refused to speak in front of the group. Now, I speak to rooms full of advisors professionally, as a full-time job. I even teach a public speaking class at a big-time university. If I can overcome this fear, anyone can.
Even financial advisors get nervous about public speaking. Even though most advisors are bright, interpersonal, and outgoing, public speaking is a different animal. Just yesterday, I was facilitating a meeting with a firm’s management team, which included the managing director, recruiter, marketing director, and all the sales managers. They had to present their elevator pitches to me and the others for critique. One of the sales managers almost couldn’t do it. She broke down under the pressure and refused, until she was coached. This is an experienced sales manager who has worked in the banking and insurance industries for many years.
Why do we feel nervous?
Some of the obvious (or not so obvious) reasons for the jitters are lack of preparation, self-confidence, and credibility in relation to the topic or audience. If you’re not prepared to speak to a group, than you shouldn’t be speaking to them: end of story. The exception might be an impromptu word or two, but you get the idea. Also, if you have little or no credibility with an audience, better establish it fast – as in the first few minutes of your speech. Otherwise, be prepared to fold like a cheap card table. You might think that if you prepare to the hilt and connect your message with the audience, you will have more self confidence and be less nervous. See how smart you are?