I was taking a little walk the other day when I bumped into this young chap at a bus stop. He was slightly taller, well dressed and proper in his nice shirt and pants. I was in a red jersey, white sports shorts and sandals.
He looked like he was ready to take the world by storm. I looked like I was ready to be hoisted out on a flag pole as the flag of Singapore or Indonesia!
Yes, he was making me look bad by simply standing next to him.
Unable to bear the awkward silence, I broke the silence first and started small talk. It was weird at first. He probably thought I was gay or something. But I managed to win him over after about 30seconds after we both eyed the same cute girl who walked past the both of us…
Anyway, I digress!
We began talking about the weather, how wretched and unpredictable it was and how it was more comfortable to be wearing a light jersey, shorts and sandals as compared to his expensive suit (woo hoo!). Then we began talking about our work. He was an accountant working in one of the local SME (small and medium enterprises) and introduced myself as training in communication and public speaking skills.
By then, our conversation was on autopilot as we waited for our bus to arrive. The name of the “pilot” in my conversation was “Mr Curiosity” as I allowed it to direct and fish out some of the challenges my new found friend had with public speaking. Apparently, it was the usual – fear of failure/falling flat on stage, how to keep the audience interested and what are the things he should do on stage etc.
I’ve heard these things pretty much all the time now – and I must admit it that I face it all the time too. Yet, I’ve also come to recognise that fear can be a powerful ally, and I’ve since learned to let it direct my attention towards areas I need to shore up when I’m preparing to speak.
Yet, the revelations I got from my new friend did remind me of a a couple of pointers too when it comes to managing fear. Here are some of them:
*** My new friend and I aren’t that different – so are many of the people we’ve met and will meet.
Strangers are just friends you haven’t met. Essentially, most of us face the same concerns and face the same challenges. In fact, because our society’s structured and conditioned in a certain way, most of us even share similar values that we can all relate too!
The significance of this revelation is this – if many other people share the same concerns and value as I do, then there’s a higher chance I will be able to relate to them! Or if I don’t, then I there’s at least a higher chance that I would be able to guess correctly what are some of the values, challenges and concerns that other people face when it comes to a particular topic/event/subject!
Of course, I’m taking quite a wild shot in presenting this theory. After all, it’s hard to apply such a generic theory to specific situations or circumstances when there’re specific requirements to be met and cultures to adhere too. Still, it’s a start, and that start can lead you to finding the things you need to meet those expectations – via research.
You see, at the end of the day, researching via interviews and statistics will be able to give you a feel of the general sentiment, mood and perspectives of the people that you’ll be talking to. The best thing you could realise after conducting your research, however, is to realise that you’re not all that different from the people you were afraid to speak to.
In that instance, you would come to realise that your audience are actually extensions of yourself and your friends. They’re not as hostile as you think – and there’s no need to be afraid either.
The key challenge here, however, is for you to research, prepare and preempt the reactions of your audience. Only then would you be in a better position to engage and endear yourself to the people whom you wish to connect with – fearlessly.
Fear Busters – 10 Tips to Overcome Stage Fright