Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is the advice you’re getting about public speaking almost as ancient as a fossilized trilobite?

And, how about the advice you’re giving out? Things change. Trilobites are extinct marine arthropods that showed up about half a billion years ago and flourished through the lower Paleozoic era. But, they have  been gone for a quarter billion years.  

On his Great Public Speaking blog for March 30, 2014 Tom Antion had a post titled 11 Public Speaking Quotes (that was reposted from August 11, 2013) which began by claiming:

“Public speaking is the number one fear in America.”

Every time I see that, I want to ask if the claimant has ever seen the results from 1998 and 2001 Gallup Polls reported on March 19, 2001 with the title Snakes Top List of Americans’ Fears.

Evidently Tom has not. I looked in the 2010 edition of his book Wake ‘Em Up! Business Presentations. Chapter 8, on Delivery begins with a section on Stage Fright Strategies that still refers to a  (1977) Book of Lists fears Top Ten with speaking to dogs humorously added as #11. 

The Book of Lists got their fears from a 1973 Bruskin survey. There was another 1993 Bruskin-Goldring survey that had public speaking at number one, but most surveys don’t. For Halloween 2012 I blogged about how Either way you look at it, public speaking really is not our greatest fear.  

What’s the latest? On March 27, 2014 YouGov reported results from a survey of about 1000 U. S. adults. I blogged about the details on April 2nd in a post titled YouGov survey of U.S. adults found they  most commonly were very afraid of snakes, heights, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. Public speaking only came in first when people were asked what they were A Little Afraid of. Both for Very Afraid and a total combining it with A Little Afraid, public speaking came third.    

Remember that sometimes the phrase “thought leader” means:

“I just thought I’m a leader, but now I’m really not.”

The image shows a trilobite fossil replica in an exhibit at The Herrett Center in Twin Falls, Idaho.

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