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Fear of public speaking

© October 2009 Anthony Lawrence
October 2009

Last night our community Computer Club was visited by a local computer business: South Shore Computer Repair. This husband and wife team did a nice little presentation introducing themselves and their services and then took computer questions from the audience. The whole thing was great - fun, interesting and informative. I think it was easily the best presentation we've had yet.

Here's the thing: I invited other local computer business owners to come visit us. Not one of the others even responded, never mind accepted.

I suppose there are all sorts of reasons why a business might not want to come speak to a group like ours. Too busy - maybe they already have too much business? Or maybe they think that the business potential from talking to us is low - maybe they really don't want home user customers (though all of the places I visited have retail locations). Or could it be something else?

Maybe it's because they don't know how to dance.

Let me explain. I can't dance. I have no rhythm, no coordination whatsoever. I don't really grok music - I can't "catch the beat". It's hopeless; my brain just isn't wired for this stuff.

And yet, my wife and I go dancing regularly. Why? Because she loves to dance and I love her. It's as simple as that: as uncomfortable as I may feel, it's something I have to do because it's important for my marriage. So I "dance" - or at least shuffle around while my wife dances.

I suspect that for many small business owners, public speaking is something that makes them uncomfortable.

I have to admit that South Shore Computer Repair has an advantage here. Sherri Hartlen-Neely's business card describes her as "The Marketing Chick". Her husband's card says that he is "The Computer Guy". She's a marketing person already - she knows how to "dance".

But it doesn't matter. It especially doesn't matter if you have an invitation to come visit a small group like ours. Maybe you aren't ready to speak to five hundred people. I'm not ready to go on "Dancing with the Stars", but I can dance with my wife, and you can go talk to 15 or 20 people at a local computer club.

Opportunities like this are everywhere. No matter what your business is, there are little groups of people who would love to meet you. Bring them gift certificates, maybe a little swag, but most importantly, just let them know who you are and what you do.

You don't need to be a great public speaker. You don't need a killer Power Point presentation. You don't need any more skills or knowledge than what you use every day already. You just need to show up, introduce yourself, and tell them about your business. That's not a hard "dance".

Maybe you can't match Sherri's skills (but you could hire her or someone like her to help you prepare, couldn't you?). Maybe you aren't the world's most dynamic speaker. Either am I - but when we can't get anyone else to come talk to us, I'll stand up and drone on about something. Here's the real secret: the more you do it, the easier it gets. Start with a little club and pretty soon you'll feel fine talking to that big crowd - your dancing improves with practice.

By the way, retirement communities like ours are a great place to come practice. We're an easy crowd to please. In a place like where I live, which has many clubs and activities and two full time social directors, there are so many things going on that it's hard to imagine that your business can't find a niche to come talk to. That niche will be very happy to have you, and this kind of "dancing" will definitely help your business!

Thanks again to Sherri and John, and yes: we'll have you back!

Got something to add? Send me email.

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More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Wed Oct 14 17:04:18 2009: 7230   MareseMaryBarryBelanger

I enjoyed your article about the merits of public speaking. Many studies have shown again and again that public speaking is the No. 1 Fear. This ridiculous fear prevents us from becoming competent communicators in both our professional and personal lives. Just over a year ago, I decided to confront my fear of public speaking. I joined a Toastmasters club, Gateway Gabbers, who meets every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at Cirelli's, Middleboro. Toastmaster meetings are cleverly designed, challenging members to speak for varying lengths of time. Everyone supports each other. It's an environment to help each member grow in self-confidence and become a competent communicator. Does it work? Yes. Like you said "Practice makes perfect". Tonight, I am delivering my 4th speech (5 to 7 mins long) ... aaaargh!!! If my speech is not "Presidential Address" quality, I will have at least practiced and who knows maybe next time there will be a marked improvement!

Wed Oct 14 17:10:59 2009: 7231   TonyLawrence

Interestingly enough, my wife is going to call your company soon - she's been traveling a long distance for therapeutic massage and when I found your site right here in Middleboro I suggested she call. She's very fearful of switching - she's a physical mess, all knots and twists and massage/chiropractic treatments have sometimes hurt her - your website made her a little less afraid.

Wed Oct 14 20:50:32 2009: 7232   TonyLawrence

The very first time I had to speak to a crowd, it was unexpected. I had walked in to do a sales call and the guy I met decided to call in 50 people to their auditorium!

Probably because it was so sudden, it didn't bother me at all. I made a speech and answered questions. Since then, no crowd has worried me at all.

Thu Oct 15 14:24:47 2009: 7238   MareseMaryBarryBelanger

Hi Tony
Please have her call me. I would be delighted to explain the effectiveness of our massage techniques. New Patient Offer gives$10 off.
I look forward to speaking with her.
Marese Mary Barry-Belanger
(508) 923 0044

Sat Oct 17 22:00:18 2009: 7286   TJWalker

Agreed-speaking is not hard, but the most important thing is not whether it is easy for the speaker but if it is interesting and memorable for the audience.

Sun Oct 18 01:39:33 2009: 7287   TonyLawrence

True. That's the hard part. I can talk for hours, but can I be interesting? Maybe to some, but for most folks, no.


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