Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A story outweighs a silly statistic

On May 30th, in her LadyClever blog, Kamala Kirk posted on Nothing to Fear: Speaking in Public with Ease. She opened with:

At some point in all of our lives, we’ve had to give some sort of speech, presentation or talk to a group of people. For some people, this can be one of the most terrifying things they will ever have to do. In fact, there’s an interesting statistic that actually claims that public speaking is the number one fear in North America!  I remember the treacherous junior high days of having to give a presentation in front of the class – my anxiety was so bad that I would try to come up with excuses to stay home sick or to not give my presentation. Fast forward a decade and a half: now I actually enjoy speaking in front of others!

It wasn’t an overnight process, of course. I had to go through a variety of situations to overcome my fear and I learned several helpful tips along the way. As I continued to build my confidence in my public speaking abilities, I eventually found that one day I wasn’t the person hiding in the back of the room – I was the person waving my hand and volunteering to go first.”

The interesting statistic was redundant, since she told a personal story - which outweighs just citing a statistic.

I have discussed a lot of surveys about fear in this blog, and do not recall ever seeing one that covered the entire continent of North America, which would include both Central America and the Caribbean. When I looked around on Google, it seemed that claim first showed up in December 2006 on Wikihow.com, and in 2007 in an article by Paul Tobey. I suspect that they used the U.S. survey reported in the 1977 Book of Lists, and assumed it also would apply to both Canada and Mexico.

Back in 2010 Reader’s Digest Canada asked women and men in 16 countries  just one survey question - What is your greatest fear: Being alone, going broke, losing my looks, or speaking in public.  

Three of those countries were Canada, Mexico, and the United States. As is shown above, they reported results for both men and women. Fear of speaking in public was not ranked first by any of those six groups, which is why the claim is a silly statistic.  

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