If you are like most people, speaking in public sends shivers down your spine. Many of you would like to avoid this problem entirely by finding some excuses. Whether we study or work, we will need to speak in public to get certain tasks accomplished or make our ideas heard. It could be your project presentation in class or doing a welcome speech at the School Annual Day functions or it could be attending an interview, eventually you will have to face the music. It’s also difficult to get very far, either professionally or socially, without being able to speak well in public.
Research shows that public speaking is the number one fear for most people and death is number two! So, at a funeral, many people would rather be the one in the coffin than the one who has to give the eulogy! From sweaty palms to cracking voices, speaking publicly can be terrifying, yet it is a crucial skill to be acquired. The truth about public speaking, however, is that it does not have to be stressful. If you rightly understand the hidden causes of public speaking stress, and if you keep just a few key principles in mind, speaking in public will soon become a fulfilling experience for you. Public speaking can be scary the first few times, but people who speak often have a few tricks that help improve their performance. They know how to prepare a winning speech, deliver it with maximum impact, and leave a lasting impression on the audience.
Although I am now as comfortable with a microphone on stage as I am in my own living room, that wasn’t always true. To be honest, until only a few years ago, I was petrified to talk in front of any sized group. Today, I love to teach/train, talk at Toastmaster clubs, church groups and other social groups. So what has changed? Did I take any medication before heading out to speak? No. My beliefs changed, and a whole new world of opportunities opened up for me.
When you ask people what they fear most about giving a speech, they list any number of reasons like lack of confidence, low self-esteem, nervousness, fear of audience, etc. But most people are concerned about what will the audience think about me or what if I forget my speech? Honestly, most of these fears are created in your imagination, and you hold it in your mind as if it is true.
Just like cycling, swimming and dancing, public speaking is a skill. And the fact is; skills are learned. Recall your first attempt at running (leg muscle pains) or swimming (probably you almost drowned). It’s the same for public speaking. You lose your voice, you stammer, you see white clouds instead of faces, and so on. But these are all first-step jitters. Anything afterwards is easy. When you run or swim, your first wind exhausts you so much that you feel you can’t move an inch more. But if you hang on a bit longer, you’ll feel new surge of unstoppable energy. That’s true for all skills, including public speaking.
Denny Joseph is an International Corporate Trainer, Career Coach and a certified Neuro‐Linguistic Programme (NLP) practitioner. He is the author of Design Your Destiny and Speak With Confidence. He is the founder of Genius Minds Academy (GMA) in Bangalore and co-founder of Nexus Training International in Singapore.