Pubic speaking, ready or not. I don’t think most lay people wake up and think I’ll do some public speaking today. I believe if asked, most people in the general population would try to avoid it like the plague. They would rather have a root canal without Novocain than subject themselves to nerves, sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat. Ok, that may be a little dramatic, but my guess is public speakers at one time, felt this way.
So like every other student, I had to take Communications 101 in college. I feared it so much that I waited until my last semester of my senior year before having no choice but to take it so I could graduate with my degree.
After expressing my anxiety to my family, the best pieces of advice I received came from two of my greatest supporters, my husband and my sister. My husband knowing that I love to talk to anyone who will give me a minute of their time suggested that I take this approach, “think of your speech as a conversation with friends and imagine you are with a group of them and you are sharing ideas that you feel are important. It is a simple conversation.” This idea of a friendly conversation completely resonated with me. It made complete sense. The idea was so simple. Ironically, in my job at the time, my desk was positioned in such a way that everyone congregated around it to discuss work issues. These speeches would be no different than any other day at the office.
The next best piece of advice I received was from my sister. She said, “prepare, prepare, prepare and practice, practice, practice.” She had given briefs on many occasions to 3-star Army Generals and Lieutenant Colonels. So needless to say, I wanted to know her strategy for public speaking. She said that I should study and internalize the content of the subject of the speech, become the expert, and prepare so well that I could present my speech without notes. These two simple, but completely relevant pieces of information would increase my confidence and reduce my nerves.
I used these bits of advice while taking my class and although it didn’t calm every nerve, it sure did help me to deal with the stress of presenting every week to a group of people.
Sometimes when we are faced with challenges that stem from fear we over complicate things. And when stress enters the picture we can’t see the situation for what it really is, just a conversation. Our thinking becomes clouded and our minds run in a hundred different directions. It is ironic how these basic steps can take you from being a completed petrified to a pretty good, if not skilled, public speaker. By the end of the class I had come to realize that I really enjoyed public speaking. As with any interest, the more we practice the more we become skilled, confident and capable of completing the task at hand.
“Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi