Public speaking is one of the greatest fears we all share. The thought of having to stand up in front of a crowd paralyzes us. So how do we overcome it? Well, I can’t tell you how YOU overcome it, but I can tell you how I did.
I would absolutely call myself an introvert. Someone who prefers the solitude of an empty office or shop to do their work. I don’t feel I’m outgoing nor to I crave having people around me to constantly socialize. Now that being said, I do enjoy other people’s company however I am far more comfortable hanging out in a small group or even better – a group of one. So why am I a comfortable public speaker?
As many kids do, I grew up looking up to my father. A hard-working guy who made sure we never went without. We grew up very modestly but he always made sure that we were looked after. He worked in a job that required both hard, mechanical skills as well as the leadership and soft skills that come with being an organizational leader. And also – he was an amazing public speaker. Honed over time and practice but there was also just a natural ability there. Watching him deliver public speeches was incredibly entertaining as his preparation, knowledge and sense of humor always made for a great presentation.
So I figured naturally being of his genes that I would have just inherited these traits and as such, attempted my first public speech at my sister’s wedding where I was to give a toast. I did zero preparation, no research, no practice and the results of my speech reflected that and more. It was probably cringe-worthy sitting in the seats watching this apparent train wreck unfold. At that moment, I realized that like anything worth doing, practice and preparation is essential. Some years later, I had another family event to which I was determined to deliver a public speech – my father’s memorial service.
After deciding that I was going to deliver the eulogy you can imagine the internal pressure I felt to do a good job. What this pressure did was force me to prepare and prepare and prepare some more. I spent hours writing the actual speech – not just the bullet points but full sentences – it was over many pages. I rehearsed at home numerous times – often simulating what it would be like at the hall, from standing at a fake podium to holding a fake microphone in my hand. I was not leaving any detail to be unrehearsed.
Finally the day came – there were 200+ people in attendance and already feeling the emotional hurt of attending the funeral for someone so important in your life, the pressure was like nothing that I’ve felt before. But when I started speaking and relying on the practice I had done, the speech came out like it was muscle memory. It was hard. It was emotional but it tempered me into a much more comfortable speaker. After that day I have given dozens of presentations and always recall back to the time I performed my biggest public speaking event and letting that guide me in my preparation and delivery.