Afraid to speak to a group. What’s your point?

Afraid to speak to a group. What’s your point?

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at

Afraid to speak to a group? What’s your point?

Speaking in front of a group can be anywhere between the most terrifying and most rewarding experience of a lifetime.

I am blessed to be able to deliver more than 100 speeches per year to some of the largest and most sophisticated audiences in the world. I’m never nervous. Oh, sometimes I get excited and I’m full of energy every time I speak but nervous? Never.

It is said that people fear speaking more than dying. The reason is, you’re still alive after you give a lousy speech.

In my experience, I have discovered why speakers, or people who have to give a speech, or even salespeople who have to give a presentation (people like you), get “nervous” before the event.

Nervous and its evil twin “afraid” are symptoms, not problems. Here are the problems:
1. Unprepared. If you are not prepared for the presentation, there is an uneasiness as well as fear of getting “caught” unprepared. Sometimes it’s in the familiarity of material that you present. Or deeper — it’s a lack of understanding of the material you present combined with the fear of being asked a question that you will not know the answer to (remember high school?). Either way, the remedy is a two-part preparation. First, understand or “own” the material you are presenting. Please note I did not say memorize. Memorizing is the biggest single cause of fear in presenting. “Fear of forgetting”. If you own it (know it cold), you don’t need to memorize it. Lincoln didn’t memorize the Gettysburg address. Second, prepare a list of questions you anticipate the audience or your customer asking you. Then answer them on paper. By answering your own questions you’ll give yourself additional knowledge, and at the same time additional self-confidence.
2.Low self-image. If you think you’re not very pretty, weigh too much, are the wrong color, you are correct. If you tell yourself you’re the greatest and getting better, you are also correct. Your choice. Judge yourself, don’t stand in the shadow of the judgment of others.
3. Low self-esteem. This differs slightly from low self-image in that you value yourself and your capabilities at a low level. Someone way back someplace told you you were stupid or ugly and you believed them. Big mistake. The cure for limited self-image and low self-esteem are the same. Go to my website ( as fast as you can and purchase a CD of The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale. It’s a 30-minute lesson about the reality of your self-thinking. Recorded in the late 50’s, it is still the single most powerful personal development message available today. HINT: The cure lies in the way you direct your thoughts.
4. Afraid of ridicule. This is a burned-in image from grade school, junior high school, and high school where some teacher made fun of you in front of the class. Everyone in the class laughed, you felt like dirt, and secretly wanted to take a baseball bat to the teacher. In my opinion teachers have no right to ridicule anybody other than themselves. As a parent, when one of my children was told, “That’s a stupid question.” I immediately had her removed from that teacher’s class. My advice is simple: if you’re well prepared, look professional and your self-image is high, the fear of ridicule will evaporate over time.
5. Lack of self-confidence. This is the most complex of all personality flaws. It is actually a combination of all 4 listed above. Confidence is built or destroyed over time based on your thinking and your life’s experiences. As you continue to build small victories, your confidence will improve. When you first tried to ride a two-wheeled bike, you were nervous and shaky. The first episode, no doubt resulted in a fall, a skinned knee, blood and excessive crying. Within a week, you were riding the bike. Within two weeks, you were riding the bike with no hands. All a result of successive success experiences. Presenting or speaking is the same as riding a bike. The more you do it, the more you know how to do it, and over time the more you know why you do it, and the more confident you become.

Here are two ideas that will get you on the “fearless” track:
Just try this: Dwell on the past victories and successes – remind yourself of when you did it, not when you didn’t.
Just try this: Write down “why” you have the fear. Many people have fear and are clueless as to the cause. Sometimes that self-discovery is enough to make it dissipate or disappear.
Just try this: Feed your head. I strongly recommend “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale. It’s a 30-minute lesson about the reality of your self thinking. Recorded in the late 50’s, it is still the single most powerful personal development message available today. Get it at Don’t just listen to it, study it.

Here are a few more exercises you can perform to build your confidence to speak or present, and heal your fears.
The Little Engine that Could. This is a book that was your first lesson in positive attitude and self-belief. You got it when you were two or three years old and have somehow let it slip away once your business cards were printed. I’ll bet you can’t even tell me what the little engine is. Go out and buy this book today. Make it an integral part of your library and a regular part of your reading.
Other books. I’ve prepared a list of books that I recommend which I will offer below as a GitBit. But there are two words in books that will help boost your self-confidence more than any other two. Dale Carnegie. His 70-year-old volumes on winning friends, stopping worry and effective speaking are still the benchmark for building self-confidence. Practice alone. By speaking into a tape and listening to it, by walking on a beach and speaking to yourself, by sitting in your room with the door shut and reading aloud, over time you will improve. Fifteen minutes a day is all you need.
Record yourself. There is no better teacher than a recording of your own voice. You have two options. You can listen to it and think how bad you are or you can listen to it and note where you can improve and work at that. Your choice. Self-recording is the single biggest element in self-improvement.
Join Toastmasters. Wherever you live, a Toastmasters is close by. Go to and join a club in your area. Toastmasters is an easy, fun inexpensive, non-threatening, supportive environment for you to improve your presentation and speaking skills. Ask any member.
Get a peer group and give your talks to one-another. Five friends or business friends gathered in a living room once a week giving a five-minute presentation to one another is better time spent than watching any rerun. It will build confidence, skills, and friendships.
Lead a committee at a business organization. Be a spokesperson for some action committee. Lead the completion of an idea or project.
Test your prowess in a safe atmosphere. Speak for free at local civic groups. Every weekly group needs a 15-minute speaker. It should be you. The atmosphere is safe, and who knows, you may make a great contact, or even a sale.Have some fun. Call a radio talk show. It’s anonymous and you get to say what you feel. It’s a passionate expression. Record it and see how it compares to your other recordings. I’ll bet it’s better. Reason? Passion requires less front of brain thought – it comes from the heart – that should be a clue. A BIG clue.

Real proof and improvement tool. Video tape yourself giving a speech or presentation. Wanna know how good you really are (or aren’t)? Tape it is the ONLY way. Video is best.

Afraid to speak or make a speech? Afraid of what? If you can answer that question, the fears will go away.

Free GitBit — Want a great list of books that will build your success library — and your success if you read them. Go to – register if you’re a first time user, and enter the words SALES PILLS in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to