I read a thing that speaking in front of a crowd is actually considered the number one fear of the average person. Number two was death. Number two. That means if you’re the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
— Jerry Seinfeld, “I’m Telling You for the Last Time” (1998)
Do you still remember the first time you made a public speech? Standing in front of the a curious crowd of 10 – no, maybe 40, watching a sea of wondering eyes, you were totally at ease. In fact, you were so comfortable that you delivered an amazing, heart rendering speech that won rapturous applause.
Did that happen to you? If it did, congratulations! You must have been blessed with the great art of Public Speaking! The bad news for most of us though, is that gift of public speaking does not come to all naturally.
The good news however, is that it is a skill, and like most other skills, it could be learnt!
Regardless of their standing in life, many people are crippled by the fear of public speaking due to early mishaps on the stage. Unprepared, unskilled and totally inexperienced, most negative experiences are formed early on in our lives during the most self-conscious stage of our life.
Someone once observed that, human nature is such that “when we have one experience, we try to avoid it for the rest of our lives”. It is our mind’s natural defence against pain! Sadly, our body’s natural aversion to pain is also the main cause of it as it is the factor that prevents us from improving and overcoming our fear at public speaking. How can we improve our skill and abilities, without practice? How does can a baby learn to walk, if all it has ever done in life is crawling? He/she has to fall a few times first!
Most people are averse to public speaking, not because they are afraid of public speaking itself, but more because of the idea of being judged. Most people have no problem speaking less formally around a table, seated down or goofing around friends. Yet when placed in front of the a lectern or on stage under the gaze of a hall full of watchfull eyes, even some of the bravest souls freeze.
A salesman who overcame the fear of public speaking once shared that the best way to overcome fear of public speaking is to “not think about yourself”. I spoke about that too about utilising the Power of Focus, in my entry on Managing Fear.
More importantly, however, in my opinion, there really are only 3 ways to best overcome the fear of public speaking – they are: PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE!
There’re no shortcuts really. Principles and strategies are only principles and strategies. The key ingredient however, are putting them into action, understanding and mastering them. Nobody learnt how to swim simply by reading a book. Even Edison needed to fail over 9000 times in order for him to succeed once. What’s more us?
Now having said that, it’s important to have a suitable platform for practice and constructive feedback. As such, I’d highly encourage anybody who wishes to improve themselves in the area of public speaking and communication to join the Toastmasters International.
Personally, I’ve made tremendous progress in the area of public speaking with the help of the organisation’s system and support. And if it’s worked for me, and hundreds of thousands of others worldwide, I’m pretty sure it can help you too! Click on the link to find out more!
Remember! Practice makes perfect!
What would you your success story be?