What Are You Afraid Of?
EDITOR S NOTEBOOK
A survey of 3000 Americans found that what they feared most, even more than death, according to Fortune magazine, was speaking before a group.
Assuming these results hold true for the fire service, and I don’t know whether they would or not, it is an indication of many lost opportunities.
A fire chief, fire officer or fire fighter must interact in an official capacity with many individuals outside his own fire company or department. And the impression made by a fire department representative when he speaks before various groups could have far-reaching consequences.
The chief must speak before city fathers to seek funds. He or others need to speak to other groups to reinforce the idea of fire prevention. He may need to speak to civic groups who may be in a position to help the department in some way. And department representatives should often speak to other groups of citizens who want to know what kind of fire protection their tax dollars are buying.
But it stands to reason that a person who is fearful and ill at ease when speaking before a group will not do the best possible job of communicating. Or he will avoid those groups altogether, missing valuable opportunities to make friends for the department.
None of us wants to make a poor impression before a group.
That’s why public speaking is feared: a mistake would be witnessed by too many people.
But we don’t want to screw up at a fire either. That’s where training comes in . . . for fire fighting and for public speaking.
By the way, there’s an organization designed to help you overcome your fears of public speaking. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational system of more than 3000 Toastmasters Clubs (check your phone book). More than a million people have benefitted from membership, according to Toastmaster brochures. Club activities help you “overcome butterflies in the stomach” and “develop communication and leadership skills to better prepare for effective participation in business, the professions, government, and the community.”
Other approaches may have worked for you. I would like to hear about them. You see, the very thought of speaking before a group makes me break out in hives. Or worse.
Books. We try to make our articles the most authoritative in the field (and we appreciate your comments about this), but some subjects just cannot be covered in a magazine-length article. So we’re in the process of expanding our book publishing activities. And we would welcome your ideas or book-length manuscripts. What a team we could build: Fire Engineering and you!