The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The mind is a wonderful thing—it starts working the minute you're born and never stops until you get up to speak in public.
At a personal and professional growth clinic I once ran, I worked closely with the meeting planners to determine the interests and needs of my audience. My group was concerned about increasing their power within their organizations, but they also indicated that they did not want me to spend a lot of time on public speaking. I held a discussion on it anyway and had the participants deliver presentations. At the end of the clinic, the evaluations indicated that public speaking was the most valuable segment of all. Some participants confessed the reason they didn't want to see it covered was fear—of public speaking.
According to The Book of Lists, public speaking—not bugs, heights, deep water, or even death—is the foremost fear in the world.
What are we so afraid of? What can a room full of people sitting quietly in their chairs—presumably unarmed—do to a speaker? Understanding why facing an audience inspires such fear is the first step toward controlling it.