#Manifest20 · Personal

The Terror of Public Speaking

At the beginning of last year, one of my intentions was to face fears and thereby increase my comfort zone. On cue, the universe provided me with an opportunity. My response? Absolute panic! I wanted to run for the hills and tried thinking of ways to avoid the situation. Instead I gave myself some time to calm down. I also walked myself through the worst case scenario. I find this is a good strategy to dissipate fear.

Some people are naturals at public speaking. Mr. T, my second son, is a great example. Put him on a stage and suddenly he’s in his element. Last Christmas he had a lead role in his school’s transition year musical and sang his solo beautifully. He seemed completely relaxed. I was so proud of him. I admire people who can speak with ease to a crowd of people. It’s not one of my gifts, but I’m working on developing the skill anyway.

Back in high school I would stutter and stammer when I’d have to stand in front of my English class to deliver a report. It was embarrassing for me and for everyone who had to witness my extreme discomfort. Speech and debate class was also terrifying. The thing is, no one would describe me as a shy person. I was a cheerleader, performed in show choir, and had no problem dancing onstage back then or even now. It’s speaking on my own I struggle with, though I’m not sure why. Can you relate?

Obviously I have to speak at the fitness classes I teach- and all eyes are on me- but I’ve adjusted to the role of an instructor over the last 9 years. In the beginning I was scared to death, even though I knew many of the people attending class. In light of my profession, I fooled myself into thinking I had finally overcome my fear of public speaking. Then I received the dreaded phone call last March.

An event organizer rang me and asked if I’d be a judge at the semi-finals for my town’s production of Strictly Come Dancing. The fundraising event would benefit one of the local primary schools. It was an honor to be asked, and I knew I should accept. Instead I made some excuse, saying I’d ring back the following day with an answer. That night I talked it over with my family. After much encouragement (especially from Mr. T), I decided to go for it.

I am not a huge fan of reality TV. I’ve only watched a few episodes of Strictly and wasn’t sure I was really up for the job. Despite all of my worries and the panic I felt, I rose to the occasion. For several hours, two other judges (a politician and local pageant queen) and I critiqued 12 couples in front of an audience of 400. The following week Demi Isaac Oviawe (one of the stars of the popular show Young Offenders) judged the finals alongside two local judges. Overall the events were a huge success and raised over €20,000.

At times I felt like The Mean Judge and it wasn’t easy. I tried to be honest and fair. While the fundraising event was just for fun, and all of the dancers were novices, it was still a contest! Some people took it very seriously. I may have offended one couple (although no one scored less than 7), making it awkward to this day. Whenever we meet I’m met with a cool nod, whereas previously we were quite friendly.

After my initial anxiety wore off, I actually enjoyed the night with the help of a gin & tonic (or two). Several of my regular clients sat at a table near me offering support and encouraging smiles throughout the event. When it was over, quite a few people said they agreed with my comments and thought I gave the dancers good feedback for the following week. At the end of the evening the judges were presented with flowers. I love the smell of hyacinths and really enjoyed the bouquet while it lasted! I felt rewarded for my efforts and was relieved that it all went well. I didn’t stutter or make an absolute fool of myself as feared. Everyone was kind and I realized all of my worrying was pointless. I’m sure the dancers felt just as anxious as I did (if not more), which helped me through the night.

How about you? Does public speaking terrify you or do you relish being in the spotlight? Over the last year did you accomplish something which you thought you’d never do?

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Featured Photo by  Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

This post was inspired by the prompt for Day 6: What fear did you face this year? Is there something you accomplished which you thought you’d never do? Tell us about it. To participate or find out more information about #Manifest20 click here.

6 thoughts on “The Terror of Public Speaking

  1. Robin, English is my second language. Even though I’ve lived in Australia since 1959 I still have a strong German accent. Sometimes people do not understand what I am saying. So I repeat, repeat. No wonder I am always afraid, that people might not understand me! For that reason any public speaking would make me very nervous.

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  2. In high school I did much better at being in a play than having to give a speech. Acting was “pretending” to be someone else 🙂 The most terrifying thing to overcome was when I worked for frontier airlines and would have to give the boarding calls and luggage information ect……it was heard throughout the airport…….I thought my heart would stop the first time I had to do it. I became a pro after a while 🙂

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    1. How interesting that stepping out of character and into someone else’s shoes made it easier for you during the play. I would still be terrified, however! 😅

      From my perspective that sounds like the worst job ever! Lol. That’s cool that you stuck with it. It’s amazing what we can get used to huh?

      Can you believe my daughter was singled out to read her Irish book aloud to her class today because she speaks Gaelic so well? She panicked and stuttered just like I did when I was her age. She was mortified. We laughed about it though and I think she felt better knowing I’d gone through the same thing.

      Liked by 1 person

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