Overcoming a public speaking weakness helped this future Prudential CEO rise to the top

September 16, 2010

John Strangfeld is chief executive of Prudential Financial, a financial services company based in Newark. Featured recently in the New Jersey Star Ledger, Strangfeld noted his struggle early on with public speaking. By working through such deficiencies, he was able to excel in his career and eventually head up a global corporation.

It wasn’t until business school though that he tackled his fear of speaking in public once and for all. It’s a common denominator for many of us. So how did he do it?

I did well on the tests and studied hard. But I had no self-confidence with public speaking. So, I was faced with the choice of do I take the path of least resistance and go with an academic program that I know I would do well at or do I go to a school, which is what I chose to do, where 50 percent of the grade is class participation?

I knew I was destining myself to being a struggling student. But for me, it brought about the question of when you are confronting areas about personal deficiency, do you put your shoulder against it to try to change it or do you concede the weakness and shape the rest of you life around it and avoid it? For me, it was a great lesson.

I remember my first presentation (at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business). I got up there and was shaking like a leaf and hadn’t slept for three days. After I gave it, I sat down with great relief that I hadn’t passed out. And my instructor said, ‘Mr. Strangfeld … that was ghastly.’ Now, my best speaking is to go without notes. It may be less precise than using a teleprompter, but that is overtaken by the more genuineness that people derive from yourself.

The thought of staring down a crowd, capturing and keeping the attention of the room and leaving those present with a solid and memorable impression can be daunting. Once you face the fear and begin to move forward, presenting in front of a crowd can become second nature.

For professionals who make presentations a regular part of their day, taking it to the next level can be a challenge. When that becomes the issue, it’s time to regroup and revise your efforts. Dale Carnegie of Central and Southern New Jersey offers programs – like High Impact Presentations – that allow professionals to hone those skills. Using video taped  review sessions and constructive feedback and tactics, this course will prepare attendees to take on any crowd, any situation with ease.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @CarnegieJersey.

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