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  • Gayle Petrillo

Our Biggest Fear

Updated: Oct 4


Do you know what is the second most feared thing we humans are afraid of? It’s not spiders or snakes! It’s death. So, what’s the thing we fear the most? Most of us would rather die than speak in public. That’s crazy, right! Right.


In my younger years, I will share with you that I was extremely shy. Introverted. If a teacher called on me during class, I would get pains in my stomach and feel sick. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answer, I did. It was the fear of having to stand either at my desk or worse case scenario, in front of the room with my classmates’ eyes on ME.

I won’t say I’ve outgrown the ‘fear’ of public speaking. I do it often. I do, however, still get queasy sometimes. It definitely takes me out of my comfort zone. Actors will often tell you that many of them still get queasy or shaky before going on to the stage. They learn how to use that adrenaline in a positive way.

Whether you are asked to speak to a large audience or sometimes that fear kicks in when you are invited to someone’s home and you become aware that there will be people there you don’t know.

Have you heard of Toastmasters? It’s an international organization that coaches every day people like you and me on tips to become more comfortable speakers. At Toastmaster meetings you create and rehearse speaking parts. It may, again, be an opportunity to practice and receive feedback on a formal presentation. It also may give you the boost you need to improve your public speaking confidence.

How many of you have a 30 second elevator speech at the ready? It simply can be a few short, interesting sentences about yourself, your background and what you have in common with your host at a dinner party. It may be deeper and revolve around your work experience. Your elevator speech will come in handy whenever you need to be ‘on’. Rather than stumbling your way through ‘off the cuff’, having rehearsed one or more short introductions will help you keep your balance when you are presented with the scary scenario.

Here are a few tips:

1. Keep It Positive, Short and Sweet. You only have 3 seconds to make a first impression. 2. Skip Industry Jargon. You want to engage people around you. You do not want to seem superior or more knowledgeable and you want them to be interested in what you are saying. 3. We all have things we are passionate about – show your passion. It humanizes you. 4. Include diverse topics (family, work, hobbies). This gives you the best chance of engaging others. 5. Practice, Practice, Practice – Say it in front of a mirror 6. Smile – Smiles are contagious! It welcomes people to listen to you.

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