Mark Twain said it better: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
I thought about this recently as I addressed my fears about public speaking. All the times of waiting to be called up to a podium flashed through my mind. I recalled sweaty palms, trembling lips, shaky knees, blanking out. Thinking about these episodes made me wonder, why? What had happened in my life to cause such a fear? What caused me to quake and shake and forget my own name? Fear of course, but fear of what? I dug deeper. Fear of embarrassment. Ah, I think we’re getting warmer…fear of making a mistake. Fear of being laughed at. That was it.
When I was five years old we had to present a gymnastic routine in front of a full auditorium. My part was to do backward somersaults across a stage. I did two and then got stuck. Everyone laughed. My father didn’t, and he accused me of embarrassing the whole family. What? I was five!!! This photo is not of a somersault, but you get my drift…at least it’s gymnastics and not a photo of a duck.
The audience probably laughed because it was cute, but I lived with that public, and private, humiliation for far too many years. So, in realizing that, I knew my fears were silly. I had to address them and grow from them. I had to be courageous…I had to master this fear. And surely nothing I could say would be as embarrassing as being stuck in the middle of the stage with my ass in the air. I decided I’d join Toastmasters and really learn how to speak in public. That was a year ago. I have yet to go. I couldn’t quite see having to pay to learn to do something that would make me extremely uncomfortable, so I resisted.
Then a month ago, I read an article on the topic of becoming a better public speaker, and it claimed the two keys were relaxation and preparation. Also, to know your audience and understand what they want to hear. The article also said to practice to make certain you know your topic and can stay within your time limit. Dress comfortably. Make eye contact. Move around a little. Use gestures. Let your tone show your enthusiasm and energy for your topic. Within the same week of reading that article and pinning it to my notice board, a position as program director for my local RWA chapter became available. Without a moment of hesitation I signed up. This was the perfect opportunity. I would practice on my friends. *grin*
This Sunday I will test the waters. My job will be to go to the podium and introduce the speaker for the day. Three minutes tops. Knowing I won’t be talking about me, but the person I’m introducing, helps a lot. I might be able to do this. Twelve meetings and hello: cue the applause, because I’m gonna be a public speaker, unless of course someone asks me to do backward somersaults. ; )
What about you? Would you rather have a root canal than speak in public? And if so, what do you think is the real reason for your fear?