Nearly half the room raised their hands! About 40 out of 80 attendees. I had expected 10 hands, maybe 15.
And it wasn't a peer pressure thing with hands going up slowly as people looked to see if their neighbor was raising their hand too. Those 40 hands shot up!
After the event I pondered why the reality was so different from my expectation and what it meant for my public speaking training business.
Am I mistaken about the number of people who fear public speaking?
I've never done a formal survey but everyone knows that public speaking is people's biggest fear. Right? Right?!? Most people I talk to tell me how much they fear/hate/loathe public speaking. There are a few who are ambivalent about it and even fewer who tell me they enjoy it. So what's up with the Greater Raleigh Chamber?
I realized I wasn't speaking with a random sample of the population. I was speaking mostly with a room of people who were small business owners. These people have taken a leap of faith to start their own business knowing they'd have to network and speak publicly day after day in order to grow their business. Very few shrinking violets in this room! If these business owners had been afraid of public speaking they had by now surely built their confidence after countless presentations to staff, conferences, investors, etc.
What does this mean for public speaking training?
The business leaders I spoke with generally belong to the small subset of the population that do not have a fear of public speaking. Their employees however, the junior-, mid-, and sometimes even senior-level people running the day-to-day of their businesses, likely feel very differently on the subject. Knowing that people tend to project their thoughts and feelings onto other people, the business owners probably don't even realize their employees have a fear of public speaking. It simply doesn't dawn on them because the fear is not a part of their lives and it's certainly not holding them back.
Oh, but it is!
Their business is only as good as the people who comprise it. If their employees are being held back by fear of public speaking their business will suffer:
- Failing to establishing trust with clients: Marketers, salespeople, analysts hesitant to speak up during client presentations
- Wasting time and resources: Managers and team leaders nervously running ineffectual staff meetings
- Losing out on new business: Subject Matter Experts avoiding speaking at conferences
So while the small business owner may be perfectly happy speaking in front of an audience they should always remember that their team may not be so comfortable. Public speaking training would benefit their employees as well as be a positive ROI in their company's future.