My first ever attempt of public speaking happened during freshman year of High School. The assignment was to give a 3-5 minute speech on any subject that excited us. I honestly do not recall the topic I chose; but I remember vivid details about the way I presented it.
We were presenting in alphabetical order by last name, this was designed to be of utmost fairness so that everyone had proper time to prepare. The presentations before me only served to amplify my anxiety – palms were sweating and my heart was pounding so hard I feared it might burst.
When my turn came; I walked up to the front of the room – feeling 30 sets of judging eyes and ears focused upon me.
The only amazing aspect of my presentation was that I read 12 index cards in 1 minute, 37 seconds, then ran back to the safety of my desk. I think I only took 4 breaths through the entire thing.
Grades were given in a 1-1 conversation with the instructor along with notes, tips, and relevant feedback. Mine went much like this; “David, the only way I can rate your performance is… FAIL.” But before my confidence could drop at all; he followed it with, “You’re not alone. Everything you did poorly is easy to fix, and I am happy to work with you to not only change the grade, but help change your future. Are you up for that?”
I appreciated the brutal honesty, followed immediately with the sincere support; and happily joined a few fellow students for some life-changing training.
Over the next couple of weeks, this instructor helped us understand some of the physiological things that were happening. While my words were in hyper drive; a fellow student said less than 50 words before completely freezing. He helped us channel this energy to help our performance rather than hinder it. He gave us a structure on how to write, and prepare, our speeches; and powerful ways to rehearse, and deliver our lines.
These sessions absolutely changed my life as they taught me how to overcome one of the most common fears – of public speaking.
Since then; my presentation skills continue to improve. I have attended dozens of courses and training programs; I have shared my experience and knowledge with people; and I have presented to thousands of audiences ranging from 1 to over 700. Presenting is now a significant part of my life and career. I still get excited before every presentation, and even feel it before I hit the ‘PUBLISH’ button on this article. These butterflies simply remind me that I am doing the right thing.
Understanding, experiencing, and overcoming the powerful grip of fear has led me to the amazing highs in my life. When I look at those terrible lows; I also see the familiar signature of fear.
While I am being so open; here are just a few of the places I discovered fear was holding me back:
Asking for what I want
Asking for opportunity, a sale, or an order
Setting my prices to ‘low’ or ‘average’
Suggesting a way to improve
Sharing my thoughts and ideas
Standing out in a crowd
Being alone / Not being accepted
Making ‘bad’ or ‘poor’ decisions
What are your fears preventing you from enjoying?