Overcoming Fear When Leading Groups

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By The Late Ron Bartlette

Fear or struggles with leading groups of any size is one of life’s most common stumbling blocks for most people.  I’m one of those people by the way.  When put into a position where I had to present anything in front of a group of people, I immediately wanted to run for the hills and hide.  Not a very satisfying response though.

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Some of the things that I’ve learned over 40 years of leading groups that have helped reduce but not eliminate that fear, apprehension, and anxiety include:

  • Remember the people you are presenting to aren’t wanting you to fail or do poorly
  • Preparation goes without saying but it must include practicing exactly what you will say and do throughout the session, keep in mind being in the moment to make changes in an adjustment to your audience
  • Greet your audience as they come into the room, as many as you can, and remember a few of them as you may call upon them to respond to an opening activity or exercise
  • If the group has an agenda that is negative, state it upfront and knock the elephant out of the room i.e. union members who are opposed to the decision made by the company to lay off workers, I would say: “I know you are angry over the company’s decision to lay off some of your peers, I would feel the same way if in your place. This morning I will lay out how the company plans to reduce the further impact on our staffing complement due to the economic slowdown across the country. I want your help with concrete ideas and suggestions.
  • Active engagement is a sure-fire method to switch the level of fear off and increase audience participation quickly and meaningfully. What I mean by this is, I start almost all of my presentations no matter how large or small of a group with a True and False statement or two on the topic and have participants pair up and share their thoughts. After 1 minute I stop the group and then ask one person to share their choice (True or False) and why they chose that decision. It’s amazing how that brief interaction allows the whole audience gets fully engaged quickly, the pressure is off of you and allows you to breathe and hopefully move amongst the audience while the participants are discussing the True and False statement.
  • Finally, another helpful process is the “get off the stage” or podium and get into the audience. Remember facilitating or presenting is about relationship development and you can’t do that effectively standing at the front and talking out to the audience.
Picture of The Late Ron Barlette

The Late Ron Barlette


This year marks the third anniversary of the passing of Ron Bartlette, Executive Director and Founder of the Winnipeg Transition Centre.

Ron was humbled by the opportunities he was given to lead the organization, working with so many passionate, gifted staff and touching the lives of numerous participants.

His legacy and vision continues on through the various programs and services of the Winnipeg Transition Centre, where thousands in Manitoba and across Canada have received support and training and who in turn, will provide inspiration in their communities.

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