November 8, 2019

Job Requires Public Speaking: Will you take it?

Public Speaking , Public Speaking Fear , Presentation Tips , Seen|Read|Heard

A survey out of Great Britain puts a workplace twist on a familiar statistic.

Yes, Brits rank public speaking as their greatest fear, something you've no doubt seen in many other such reports.

But this newest poll of 2,000 UK employees, conducted by data company YouGov, found that two out of five would pass on their dream job if it required public speaking.

And while 66 out of 100 say they avoid public speaking at work whenever possible, only two out of that same 100 say they'd be willing to tell their human resources they need some help. 

Perhaps that's the British stiff upper lip we hear so much about.

"I used to beat myself up that I couldn't sell myself well. So I missed a few opportunities."

– Person polled on workplace fears in the UK

Public speaking fears are something people talk about in every class we teach. For many, it is the main reason they've signed up for a seminar. At the same time, bosses are sending their staff to our classes, because they know employees need presentation skills to do their work—and to build careers.

What advice can we give these 800 people who say they’d forego their dream job because they'd be too afraid to speak in public?

1. Everyone has nerves, and everyone can learn to channel them.

Many of our Buckley School faculty have had to overcome nerves themselves in order to speak and teach. Being nervous is normal, to be expected. Thinking you can reach a stage of never having public speaking nerves is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, think about accepting your nervousness and working through it.

2. Your audience wants you to succeed.

Whether it's a small group of co-workers or a crowd, the people watching you speak are hoping you can do it. Perhaps that's because they are nice people. But it might also be the misery we feel in watching someone else struggle. We can relate, and most of us are rooting for you.

3. Public speaking gets easier with practice.

Instead of passing up a job you want, determine that you'll start building your presentation skills so you’ll be ready. One way to do that is to set small goals. Determine, for example, that you'll speak up in meetings. Or volunteer to speak to a children's groups or read to them at your local library. There are dozens of techniques you can use to help yourself feel more confident about speaking. Learn about a few of them and give them a tryout in some low stakes situations.

4. Don’t pass up the opportunity! Ask for help.

Some of the saddest statistics we read from this UK survey were the ones about people trying to hide their fear. If you'll own up to it, you'll find out that others have had similar bouts of public speaking nerves. You can get co-workers to help you practice and build your confidence. You can get useful feedback and genuine encouragement. And yes, you can even ask to attend a public speaking school for more help.

Learn more:

There's additional information in that same survey about a related fear—of speaking on the phone—something companies are finding to be a problem in younger generations. 

How you talk to yourself about public speaking can greatly influence your ability to succeed. Find some thoughts and data on that here.

In this article, we step you through how to handle a case of nerves. 

And if you do have a phone interview in your future and feel nervous about it, find a few of our best tips here.

Share this article