Saturday, June 25, 2016

How could you spin the results of a fear survey where public speaking wasn’t even in the top 5, 10 or 20?

It also was not in the top fifth or fourth. But, there are at least three ways. (Those in the PR business could come up with more).

First, you could obscure things by not mentioning the total number of fears (89) and where public speaking ranked (26th), as shown above in a bar chart of the top (most common) forty. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer view). Then you make the reader follow a link to a blog post listing all the results. That’s what Derek Slawson did in a LinkedIn Pulse article on May 12, 2016 titled When Imagining Everyone in their Underwear Doesn’t Work:

“If you are asked to give a presentation for your organization, does it make you quake with fear, turn bright red, or get the worst case of dry mouth? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Chapman University does an annual survey of America’s top fears, and public speaking made the top third of the fears of those surveyed. (In case you’re wondering, terrorism and other modern day threats have moved ahead of the age old fear of public speaking).”

Second, you could just shine a spotlight on a small fraction of the results and ignore the rest. That’s what Caryn Berardi did an a UT Dallas article on January 25, 2016 titled Three Lessons I’ve Learned from Toastmasters:

“According to the 2015 Chapman University Survey of American Fears, public speaking ranks as the second-highest reported ‘personal anxiety’ fear, behind reptiles and just ahead of heights.”

Third, you could just plain ignore the 2015 survey and instead quote from their first 2014 one. That’s what Matt Abrahams did in a Huffington Post article on February 16, 2016 titled Speaking Up without Freaking Out: 5 Techniques to help manage the fear of public speaking:

“The Book of Lists has repeatedly reported that the fear of speaking in public is the most frequent answer to the question ‘What scares you most?’ These results were recently echoed in Chapman University’s survey on American fears, which rated speaking in public among the top 5 fears Americans report. In fact, people rate speaking anxiety 10 to 20 percent higher than the fear of death, the fear of heights, the fear of spiders, and the fear of fire.” 

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