Some People Say They Would Rather Die – Michael Dennis, CBF

Public Speaking

Many years ago, I feared public speaking.

I had all the classic symptoms of anxiety related to making a speech:  I froze up.  I felt sick.  I wanted to be anywhere but in front of an audience.  I tried to convince others that they were a better choice to make the speech.

One day I realized that my inability to make professional presentations had already limited or would limit my professional growth — even if the only presentations I ever made were to co-workers and to senior management so I decided to do something about it.  I joined the Toastmasters organization and the change was rapid and dramatic.  I quickly gained confidence speaking in front of a group of strangers.  I learned that audiences don’t gloat over every mistake a presenter makes.  I learned that it is OK when necessary to pause to find your place and collect your thoughts.  I quickly went from dreading public speaking to enjoying it.  Since then, I have done more than 100 seminars, webinars and teleseminars for CMA and numerous other Associations and organizations.

Even if you have no interest in public speaking, anxiety about making presentations for co-workers or to senior management can adversely affect your chances for recognition and promotion.  For this reason, the time to challenge your fear is now.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy fear of public speaking is overcome and how many opportunities there are to make presentations as part of your normal job duties.

In my opinion, a well-rounded credit professional looks at his or her strengths and weaknesses, and then makes the most of their strengths while addressing their weaknesses.  What do you think?

Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM

Michael Dennis’ Covering Credit Commentary. Michael’s website is

The opinions presented are those of the author.  The opinions and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of CMA, or their Officers and Directors.  Readers are encouraged to evaluate any suggestions or recommendations made, and accept and adopt only those concepts that make sense to them.

4 Replies to “Some People Say They Would Rather Die – Michael Dennis, CBF”

  1. Outside of a group like Toastmasters, a friendly environment to gain experience is department meetings. What works well is if employees give 1-2 minute descriptions of what they are doing that week, or has happened in their job – usuallay a 3 item list.

  2. Another group that is helpful in overcoming public speaking trepidation (not cheap but well worth it) is Dale Carnegie. I, too, used to dread getting in front of groups, but found their training really got me over stage fright, even wound up in local community theater. They have affiliates all over the country and do a great job with public speaking development.

  3. Public speaking has been my toughest professional challenge, and in my position, I frequently address a wide range of audiences, including members at events, members at Board meetings, business prospects, staff, and my professional peers. I’ve even been interviewed on a local news radio program (thought I would die!) and I’ve appeared on a weekly webcast. Over the years, public speaking has gotten easier (read less perspiration and fewer heart beats per minute), but I still get anxious just thinking about it. As Michael Dennis has said, public speaking is a critical skill to have, regardless of your profession, so if you’re not a natural at it (and most people aren’t), it’s worth investing time, nausea and adrenaline rushes to get better at it. If you don’t have the time to invest in one of the reputable programs mentioned above, I recommend three things you can do — practice, practice, practice. The more you do it, the more confident you will feel, and the better you will perform.

  4. Dennis,

    While you were only utilizing the example of public speaking to make your point, it seems to have struck a cord. Mike believes that practic is key. I agree that it is a critical factor, but another “P” word, preparation is equally important. If one is prepared on the topic, the stress is reduced. I’ve often heard that picking out one person in an audience and focusing as if speaking to only them, blocks out the notion that there are so many others listening. One on one conversations are much more relaxed. Small successes breed confidence as well. In that light, I often find striking up a conversation with strangers in a line, at a cafe, etc. make for baby steps in standing in front of larger and larger groups. You have to learn to be more extroverted a little at a time.

    Public speaking is a curious skill because when it is required, it is something that quite often, you cannot pass on to someone else.

    To your actual point, self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses is an on-going review. Beyond where your capabilities lie, as time goes by, your enthusiam and energy for certain tasks and duties ebb and flow. You may be good at crunching numbers but it may no longer bring the satisfaction it once did. Is that a task better suited to someone else? Is it something they enjoy doing more than you?

    Along with self-assessment, you must continually assess not only your support staff, but your associates and subordinates as well. Sometimes it is more practical to rely on their strengths than it is do spend the effort to strengthen your grasp in that area. Conversely, they may need assistance in an area in which you excel and that may be a equitable trade-off.

    If it were possible, I imagine a 21st century renaissance man would not need anyone else’s help but in today’s complex world such a man is fictional. We create parnership in marriage and business because we have holes in our abilities and personalities that are not easily patched. And we might not feel any urgency to patch them. so we leave it to our parnters to deal with issues in those cases.

    I’m all for working at improvements. But I am also a proponent of hiring experts so that I don’t have to re-invent the wheel as we must balance learning with being efficient with our limited time. How often you expect to use the skill will largely determine how much time you should spend in honing it.

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