Jim was a head counselor at Camp Sunrise. On Awards Day at the end of the season, he was expected to stand up and speak to the large group of campers and their parents. Jim had prepared his talk and even memorized what he wanted to say. But as he sat on the stage waiting to be introduced, he became nervous. He had been dreading this moment for days.
Finally, Jim's name was called. He stood up and walked slowly to the podium. As he moved to center stage, his legs felt wobbly. His palms were sweaty and his stomach started doing flip-flops. Jim looked out at all those faces. Suddenly, he wished he could disappear.
"Thank you for coming here today," he began in a tense, high-pitched voice. "It's been a wonderful opportunity to work with so many great campers this summer. Now I'd like to tell you a story about one of them."
All eyes were on him. Everyone seemed to be waiting for him to begin the story. They waited . . . and waited . . . and waited. Jim's mind had suddenly gone blank. He couldn't remember what he wanted to say. "I knew it yesterday," he thought. "Why can't I remember it now? Why?" It seemed like an hour had passed. But in reality it was only 30 seconds. Panic seized him. Jim knew everyone was staring at him. And he just wanted to get out of there. He could stand it no longer. Jim turned from the audience and fled the stage.
The importance of Public Speaking
The ability to deliver an effective talk is one of the most valuable skills you can possess. If you want to be a leader in school, public speaking is often essential. As a class officer, head of the student council, or president of a club, you are often called on to stand up and speak to a group. Public speaking is also important in the workplace. As career counselor Rozeanne Burt explains, "The people who can stand up and give a talk stand out and are set apart from other employees".
Yet most people are afraid of public speaking. In fact, recent polls indicate that they fear it more than death itself. Stage fright is not uncommon, even among good speakers. But they generally don't react the way Jim did. Instead, there are several approaches they use to conquer their fears.
Top Ten Fears Among Americans
1. Public speaking
4. Financial trouble
5. Deep water