Gregory Olsen, a partner at Lenox Advisors in New York City, remembers the first time in his career he had to speak in public. "My throat went dry and I felt myself choking on my words," he recalls.

The event was a weekend workshop for advisers: Olsen had been named his firm's Rookie of the Year and was asked to speak about his early career success. He was given a week to prepare, but even so, he says, it was a struggle: "I just remember thinking I could do better."

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