Fears: Don’t Let Them Dilute Your Message


January 7, 2010

Imagine this scene- you’re attending a meeting or presentation and one of the leaders rises to speak.  Maybe he is going to share news of outstanding revenue growth or of a new product or program the company is launching.  He moves to the front of the room and as he does, he is looking at the floor.  He gets to the podium where he looks briefly out on the audience.  Then, eye contact is lost.  He stumbles, stutters, and quietly works his way through the presentation as he reads directly from his notes.

As you sit in the audience, are you focusing on the message?  Or, are you taking note of how fear of public speaking has gripped this person and diluted his message?

We can all realate to times when our fears, whether rational or not, get the better of us.  The key is not to let you fear “win” by holding you back.  There are several steps you can take to help alleviate the fear taking over the situation.

  • Anticipate- Think about all the possible outcomes of the situation before you put yourself in the situation.  As you think of each outcome, concentrate on what about each outcome causes you anxiety.  How can you reduce that anxiety?
  • Prepare- Whenever you are facing a situation, preparation can help diminish the fear level.  If you’re afraid of heights, for example, think about all possible ways that a situation is secure before you put yourself out there.  If it is public speaking that makes you fearful, make sure that you have spent the appropriate time preparing your notes.  These are just a few examples.
  • Practice Regardless of what your fear is, practicing your approach is a critical step in making you a success.  Are you fearful of approaching a potential new client?  Make sure you practice how the discussion or meeting will go.  It will make it feel more natural when you actually make the call or arrive for the meeting.
  • Succeed- You’ve taken the time to work through all the potential obstacles in your mind, so now you need to go out and succeed!

The same steps hold true for almost any fear that may dilute your message.  Whether it is fear of a person who intimidates you, fear of public speaking, fear of not succeeding, fear of writing (even a blog), all these things can make you freeze and not get your message across.  By taking a step back, we can regain composure and confidence and make the most of any situation.

Do you have any tips or tricks you use when you are facing a situation that makes you uncomfortable?  Share them with us in the comments….


  • Law school exams are known to be pretty tough. The day I took my very first one, many of my fellow students were complaining about how nervous they were. When they asked if I was nervous I said, ” I have had loaded guns pointed in my face and have gone through totally unaided, undrugged childbirth. How can this test possibly make me nervous?” That is one of my “tricks” to facing fear: is the worst that can happen REALLY that bad?

    If you have gone through the steps you have listed (and I am a big advocate of planning and practicing), think about the worst that could happen. Unless the worst thing that could happen is death, you are probably going to be okay.

  • As someone who failed speech class 4 times in high school I can relate to this post! Fortunately, I’ve gotten over this fear with the help of some good mentors.

    The best advice I ever got was this: when you’re in front of a group and you make a mistake do not apologize. Your audience doesn’t know you’ve made a mistake. It worked like a charm.

  • I have a huge fear of public speaking; new hire orientation wigs me out, even with 6 people. I use some of the advice you mention above but one of my favorited is telling myself, these people don’t know me so it doesn’t matter if I screw up. Yeah, I know they’ll get to know me or if it’s a crowd I might know someone but I’m good at lying to myself. 🙂 Another tatic I use is laughing at myself, public speaking isn’t life or death. I’m such a dork for fearing it though!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.





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