Get the Facts About Fear of Speaking In Public from an Old Master

One of my favourite books about public speaking is called “The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking”. It is a 1962 rewrite by Dorothy Carnegie of the textbook her late husband Dale Carnegie wrote for his courses called Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business.

So in 2021, the ideas originally put forward by Dale Carnegie would be approaching 100 years old. However, like his other moderately well-known book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, it’s amazing how well the principles have stood the test of time. Today I wanted to share four pieces of wisdom from the book with a few notes of my own.

You are not unique in your fear of speaking in public

Back then, Dale Carnegie estimated that around 80 – 90% of people suffer from stage fright. Most relevant modern research focuses on anxiety and public speaking as a source or trigger. Most studies end up at around 70-80% of people having some level of anxiety (ranging from mild to severe) in relation to public speaking.

A certain amount of stage fright is useful

Dale Carnegie pointed out that your heart beating faster and breathing becoming faster were natural responses to preparing for a challenge. He added that the trick is to keep these physiological responses within limits and they will make you capable of thinking faster and speaking with greater intensity.

These days we know a lot more about the science of what is actually happening in your body, but in a nutshell, he was spot on about controlling the severity of the response and directing the energy positively.

Even many professional speakers never lose all stage fright

Dale Carnegie offers one of my favourite lines by saying “Speakers who say they are as ‘cool as a cucumber’ are usually as thick-skinned as a cucumber and about as inspiring.

Many a time I’ve had people speak to me about my classes and say something like “I’m really lucky I don’t have any trouble with public speaking.” Then I hear them speak and they are certainly right about one thing…confidence is not their problem.

The chief cause of your fear is simply that you are unaccustomed to speaking in public

Dale Carnegie points out that for the beginner, learning to speak in public is a complex series of strange situations. He says the best way to make public speaking a joy is to get a record of successful speaking experiences behind you.

Which brings me back full circle to last week’s message. There is no substitute for stage time.

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