Public Speaking: Fear – Is There Hope?

February 3rd, 2009 by Frank Damelio

dreamstime_8631049[1]Shaky hands, dry throat and wobbly knees are just some embarrassing effects caused by the fear of public speaking. In our public speaking blog we will deal with this fear of presenting on two fronts:

1) The quick fix to veil fear of public speaking, aka outside-in approach

2) The long term cure for fear of public speaking, aka inside-out approach

But before we delve into solutions, I’d like to share proof that there is hope for those who feel paralyzed by fear caused by the mere thought of public speaking.

1984 – Mr. Scavino’s high school English class.  We are doing oral book reports, and Mr. Scavino is calling us up in order – row by row, seat by seat.  I am prepared with respect to my book report, but something clicks in me, a fear I’ve never felt so intensely. One by one the students present, each completed presentation draws me closer to my turn.  I feel my throat constrict, my adrenaline is in overdrive and my hands are trembling. Then I hear my name.  I stand, staring at my index cards, and stumble through the title and author.  I still remember it: “The Muliple Man” by Ben Bova.  

My fear is causing a public speaking train wreck.  What to do? I do what most kids would do in that situation . . . I lie.  I tell Mr. Scavino that I never finished my report.  He does what most teachers would do.  He responds, “that’s okay Frank, I’ll let you finish your report tonight, and you can go again tomorrow”.

The next day arrives all to quickly. Overwhelmed by my new-found fear of public speaking, I muddle through an excruciatingly mortifying experience. From that point until graduation, I snuck my way out of every public speaking assignment.

Then, I hit college.  I HAD to learn to overcome, or at least veil, my fear of public speaking.  Every day I studied my professors and compared their presentations to those of the students.  What made the professors LOOK so much more comfortable?  Why did almost every student telegraph fear when they presented?  I studied the nuances and took notes.

Soon, I was able to cover the symptoms of my public speaking fear.  I began reading books on psychology and presentations, and ultimately I was able to convert fear to enthusiasm for public speaking.  Now I earn my living by delivering presentations to audiences of all sizes.

In the blog entries to come I will happily share the techniques I’ve learned to 1) veil the fear of public speaking (the quick fix) and 2) to ultimately ENJOY public speaking (a longer-term approach).

In the meantime, please feel free to share any techniques you’ve discovered to deal with your fear of public speaking.

Is there hope for those petrified of public speaking?  You bet!

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