Why You Can’t Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
I was a Navy brat growing up and my dad was stationed in Spain for 4 years when I was in grade school. While living in Spain, I picked up a few words of Spanish. We lived in the Andalusia territory of southern Spain and I’m told that I pronounce certain words with an Andalusian accent. (At least that’s what a graduate student from Guatemala once told me when I was an undergrad at Iowa State.)
I took two years of Spanish in high school, then two more years of Spanish in college.
Today, I speak Spanish… well, like most Americans… similar to a sketch they did on the show Cedric the Entertainer Presents. See if you can relate…
I genuinely believe that I don’t think I have a knack for languages.
You Don’t Have a Knack for Public Speaking
Contrast my experiences of learning a foreign language with my experiences in front of an audience.
I begged my mom to let me take summer school in the 4th grade so I could take the acting class they offered only over the summer. (I played the role of Mr. Allen to critical acclaim – of my parents.) I don’t ever remember being afraid to speak in public. Now I get paid to do it! Yeah!
But Anyone Can Learn If They Force Themselves
I have to believe that if I was dropped in a foreign country and forced to learn another language, I would.
If you force yourself to do public speaking, you will improve in your ability to speak at the front of the room.
How do I know? Because I’ve been in Toastmasters over 11 years and I’ve seen it happen with my own two eyes – and this is before I started needing glasses!
I remember one woman whose pant legs visibly shook as she gave her first speech. It was uncomfortable to watch. But as she got to her 5th and 6th speech, she was clearly more comfortable and confident. She eventually left our Toastmasters group when she got a new job… a job she attributes to getting, in large part, to the confidence she gained through Toastmasters.
The Toastmasters program has proven itself over decades and hundreds of thousands of people. If you work the program, you will get better at public speaking.
Sorry. There’s No Magic Pixie Dust
I remember talking to a prospect who said she wanted me to help her overcome her fear of public speaking. As much as I wanted her to hire me, I had to tell her that while I could help her prepare, I didn’t have any magic pixie dust that would make her fears go away. I was able to help her prepare for her presentation and she is able to deliver it like the professional she is. She still hates public speaking. But she does it because her work is important — and her audiences love her. Here audiences have no idea how apprehensive she is.
There is no magic pixie dust for you either. You may never overcome your fear of public speaking. But you can improve. You can become more comfortable. But you HAVE to DO it if you want to see a change.
One Caution: You May Enjoy It
I do have to warn you though that some people who have a fear of public speaking take these steps and do the work and then find out… that they actually LIKE public speaking!
I’m not kidding. It happens!
One things for sure. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Give it a try. YOU CAN DO IT!
Follow this link to find a Toastmasters club near you.
Or give me a call at 770-597-1108 and let’s see if presentation coaching is right for you.
And who know… maybe when I answer the phone, I’ll say “Hola!”