Phobia of public speaking is overcome by facing the fear 'straight on,' say faculty

Written by: 
Hannah Jones

Public speaking is the most common fear in America among all age groups, according to the Chapman University Survey on American Fears as reported in the Washington Post. But public speaking is a fear everyone should conquer, said BYU-Hawaii faculty members, who expressed the need for students should develop this skill now in order to prepare for any career field they go into.


Neil Anderson, a TESOL professor and public speaker, said, "You've got to attack [the fear] straight on. Don’t hope that it's going to go away."


Although Anderson said he previously lived a shy life, he said, “I absolutely love public speaking. I do get anxiety, but it’s facilitated anxiety when I have to stand in front of a group, not debilitating anxiety.”


Anderson said he is passionate about everyone learning how to conquer the fear of public speaking. He noted what a shame it would be if his “lack of public speaking skills interfered with the message” he is trying to convey.


Troy Smith, an associate professor of political science, participates in public speaking competitions every year. “For some jobs, public speaking is an essential qualification for the job. In most jobs, some form of socializing is very helpful. You might have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t convey it to others, then what value is it?"


Being the editor and co-editor of more than 50 books, book chapters, and journal articles, Anderson said, “If I had let the anxiety consume me, I would have never followed the leadership track, and thus I would not have [been] around the world. If I had let the fear consume me, I would have never published a textbook.


“You don’t want to live life [avoiding public speaking] because there are many opportunities you could have if you would learn to overcome the anxiety. Some of us get so consumed with the fear that we're not willing to take the risk.”


Anderson stressed the importance of public speaking for all students. “Every major on campus requires individuals to be good public speakers.”


Wes Duke, a senior manager at Financial Services who has had to speak publicly at Tuesday devotionals, said, “When it comes to personal development, I've alluded to forcing myself to be outside of my comfort zone. [These] experiences help.” He said he thinks people should take as many opportunities as possible to speak publicly.


Duke shared a story of his wife going on a water slide that parallels public speaking. “As we get to the top, she realized, 'This is pretty tall.' All of a sudden her heart is pounding with fear. It took time, but [I explained], ‘You shouldn’t let your fears prevent you from doing what you want.’”


According to Smith, not knowing how to publicly speak translates to others as “not knowing the topic.” Duke said, “As [we] get out of [our] comfort zone, that’s when we grow.” The hardest part is simply “forcing yourself to get over that hump and get used to it.”


Duke said, “You see very many children [being] fearless, but those same children, as they grow up, begin to get that fear of public speaking. Our fears we are not born with. We adopt them as we grow. We all have those opportunities to grow. What's the opposite of fear? It’s faith. The Spirit gives us the confidence that we might otherwise be fearful of.”


Anderson agreed with Duke. He said, “We've got to allow ... the Holy Ghost [to] give the confidence that [we] need so [we] can be the instruments… in Heavenly Father’s hands.”

Date Published: 
Friday, November 17, 2017
Last Edited: 
Friday, November 17, 2017