Why Jerry Seinfeld Was Right About Public Speaking

The Jerry Seinfeld public speaking joke is far from a joke -- it is how most of us really feel. Here is my first-hand experience with it.
Why Jerry Seinfeld Was Right About Public Speaking

Remember that famous Jerry Seinfeld joke about public speaking?

He references a study that said people are more fearful of speaking in front of a crowd than death. If true, it means the average person attending a funeral “would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

This one:


That’s me. I’m one of those people.

And last month, I was asked to give a keynote speech to the largest audience I’ve ever been in front of. It was at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and over 300 students were in attendance.

I’ve had the video recording for weeks but I haven’t shared it with anyone. Not even my wife.

I guess I was just worried about what people might think. If they could tell I was nervous. Or that I could really use a sip of water. Or that I was standing sideways and not facing the audience like my speech coach told me to do.

It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.

This is why most of us would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy. So we can avoid feeling scared, nervous, and vulnerable.

But then it hit me. One of my goals for 2016 was to find a way to reach a larger audience and help more people.

As a financial planner, I can only help so many people at a time. There are only so many hours in the day.

But there are other avenues – like public speaking – where I can share my story with larger groups. And then there’s social media, blogging, and video where I can continue with these efforts.

Maybe people WILL notice that I was nervous. Or that I stumbled over my words. Or that I completely spaced and forgot an entire section of my speech.

But if sharing my story and publishing this video helps one person that I wouldn’t have typically been able to reach, then none of that really matters.

The full speech is over twenty minutes long. If you’re having trouble sleeping tonight, you can watch it here.

But if you’re anything like the Snapchatting millennials in the audience, you might prefer a short clip instead.

In this clip, I encourage the students to avoid taking a job just for the money and explain why I turned down the largest paycheck I would have ever received:


Preparing for and giving this speech was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done professionally. It was also one of the most rewarding (funny how that works).

I can’t say that I will be back on stage anytime soon, but I am forever grateful for this opportunity. And I’m grateful for the people in my life that gave me the motivation and confidence to actually show up that night.