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Thursday, August 25, 2011

America's #1 Fear and Its Antidote...

If you Google the phrase "Number One Fear in America" you'll see that our top fear is not the economy, politics, Wall Street, unemployment, terrorism, the war overseas, hurricanes, earthquakes, cancer or even death.

The number one fear in our country is public speaking, complete with its dry mouth, sweaty palms and stomach butterflies. Those are physical sensations manifest the underlying fear that's common to all of us who've ever had to speak to small audience in a boardroom or a national broadcast audience.

The first 10 years of my career, I was a print/radio/television journalist. When I was a television news reporter, whether I was on the anchor desk or broadcasting remotely from the field, being able to answer questions live on camera was a necessary skill. However, being able to both think and talk on your feet in real time is a skill that constantly needs sharpening or it becomes dull. That's just about my current skill level in this regard - dull.

Additionally, since I left the media, I've had the opportunity to publicly speak several dozen times at colleges, high schools and community organizations. Similar to extemporaneously speaking, public speaking from a prepared or memorized text, requires practice to make perfect; however, my lack of practice has made we quite imperfect in this specific regard.

That's why I was THRILLED when I found out that our company will establish its own chapter of Toastmasters International.  

Toastmasters is a worldwide organization that helps individuals develop their speaking, presentation, meeting organization and leadership skills. During my 20+ years in communications as both a former journalist and current public relations director, some of the most effective communicators I've met and worked with have been Toastmasters alum. 

While I've always been intrigued with Toastmasters, the timing never worked for me to join - until now.

The three areas that I'm looking most to develop are:
1. Speaking and answering questions off-the-top-of-my-head in a public forum;
2. Eliminating transitional filler such as "" from my speech;
3. Polish my speech writing and presentation development skills.

We had our first introductory meeting this past Tuesday and about 50 people showed up, so it should be a robust and dynamic chapter. Our next meeting will be in a few weeks, and I'm looking forward to sharing the ups and downs with you here.

Question: Does the thought of standing up and giving a speech in public scare you? Why or why not?

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