How to conquer fear of public speaking in one easy lesson
So many people say ‘public speaking, aren’t you brave? I could never do that!’ So maybe it would help if I told you how I got into it?
Many years ago, as a quiet, not very confident civil servant, I joined the trade union. Up to then, I’d never been one to put myself forward, or seek attention in any way. (I know! Hard to believe!) But there lurked a quiet ambition, a desire to do something notable, and a throwback to my dad ‘s trade union principles maybe. Thanks to a colleague pushing me to stand for committee, I began to get involved. And once involved, I wanted to properly get stuck in. Then came the opportunity to go as a delegate to the national conference. What better way to find out more and begin to make a difference? Again, I was nominated, voted a place, and the tickets booked. In my naivety, I didn’t realise how unions worked. Our branch put forward a couple of motions.
So the branch chair said, ‘We’ll brief you on what to say.’
Me; slightly panicky, ‘What do you mean, what to say?’
Branch chair, ‘You’ll need to put the argument for the motion to the conference, don’t worry though, we’ll brief you.’
So there we are, thrown in the deep end. Had to speak – I’d taken a delegate place, meaning someone else couldn’t do it. The union were paying for me to go. It was important to persuade the conference to adopt the motion for the branch members. So I had to speak. In front of a conference audience of a few hundred.
What did I learn from the experience?
Well, first of all, the importance of preparation. Everything is easier if you’ve prepared properly. I took notes of the briefing the more experienced union members gave me. I made sense of the content, and put it in words I would use, to make my message authentic and therefore more convincing. I didn’t read them from a script – I made bullet pointed notes to use as an aide memoire. I rehearsed.
Secondly, I learnt the importance of looking confident. Even though the butterflies were going crazy when my name was called and I walked up to the lectern to speak, I walked purposefully to the front. I spoke in a clearer, louder voice than ever before. I focused on the moment, using the notes I had, keeping my purpose in mind. I must have done something right, because the motion was accepted.
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, I learned that I could do it. I learned that standing up and speaking in front of an audience wasn’t as scary as most people think it is.
So my advice to those of you who really wish you had the confidence to speak in front of an audience is, just do it. Next time someone wants you to share your knowledge, skills and experience, agree to do it, don’t be scared. Once committed, you’ll do whatever preparation you need to so that you can make a success of it. And then you’ll be proud of your accomplishment, realise it’s not so bad and be even more confident next time.
What do you think of this as a strategy? I’d love to hear about your experiences. If you feel you need a bit of support though, drop me a line, I’d be happy to help.