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Warren Buffett: How I Overcome My Fear of Public Speaking | Collection: Warren Buffett #401



I’m Nancy Ancowitz. I’m from New York City, and I teach at New York University.

Mr. Buffett, I’d love to get your advice on something that’s a little off the investing path but that taps into your business experience and wisdom.

I’m writing a book to help people of a more introverted nature get the recognition they deserve.

What advice would you give to the quieter half of the population to help them raise their visibility in their careers?


Well, that’s a very good question. And I sort of faced that at one time.

I was absolutely, throughout high school and college, terrified of public speaking.

And I would have — I avoided any classes, signing up for them, that would require it. I would get physically ill if I even thought about having to do it, let alone doing it.

And I took a Dale — well, I’ve — first of all, I signed up — I went down to a Dale Carnegie course when I was at Columbia, and signed up for it, gave him a check for a hundred dollars, went back to my room and stopped payment on the check. (Laughter)

This is a real man of courage you’re looking at up here. (Laughter)

And then I came out to Omaha, and I saw a similar ad. It was at the Rome Hotel, for you old-timers in Omaha, on 16th Street.

And I went down there, and this time I took a hundred dollars in cash and gave it to Wally Keenan, who some of you may know. He died some years ago. First time I’d met him.

And I took that course, and when I finished that course, I went right out to the University of Omaha and volunteered to start teaching, knowing that I had to get up in front of people.

I think the ability to communicate, both in writing and orally, is of enormous importance, under taught.

Most graduate business schools, they wouldn’t find an instructor to do it because it would sort of be beneath them to do something so supposedly simple.

But if you can communicate well, you have an enormous advantage. And to you, who are talking to the group of introverted people — and, believe me, I was in certain ways quite introverted — it — you know, it’s important to get out there and do it while you’re young.

If you wait until you’re 50 it’s probably too late. But if you do it while you’re young, just force yourself into situations where you have to develop those abilities.

And I think the best way to do that is to get in with a whole bunch of other people who are having equal problems, because then you find you’re not alone, and you don’t feel quite as silly.

And, of course, that’s what they did at the Dale Carnegie course. I mean, we would get up in front of 30 other people who could hardly give their own name, and after a while we’d find that we could actually pronounce our own name in front of a group.

But we would stand on tables and do all kinds of silly things, just to get outside of ourselves.

You may have thought — by this point you may think it went too far in my particular case, but that’s another problem. (Laughs)

But you’re doing something very worthwhile if you’re helping introverted people get outside of themselves. And working with them in groups, where they see other people have the same problem and they don’t feel quite as silly themselves, I think is — I think you’re doing a lot for some human beings when you help them do that.



Yeah. It’s a real pleasure to have an educator come who is working to do something simple and important instead of something foolish and unimportant. (Applause)


I hope he’s not going to name names. (Laughter)

~ Please visit the site above for full video of Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.


[YAPSS Takeaway]

  • Make changes when you are young.

  • Join a group of people who are like you and want to change.

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