- Conquering your fear.
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I have been back on the speaker circuit lately, thanks in large part to the recent elections. I have also been on the radio more frequently to discuss politics. I relish the opportunity to talk to people, be it on politics, business, or our ever changing world. I like to believe I possess a personal touch as I try to get the audience to participate in my presentation and challenge them to think. I despise it when people sit there muted like zombies. I want them to participate. Some encourage me to run for political office, but I am probably too honest to do so.
I have lectured on a variety of subjects, be it related to politics, morality, technology or business related. Early in my career, I taught such things as corporate planning, systems design, data base, and project management, all of which was related to our "PRIDE" methodologies. From this, I realized I had to master the subject matter and exude confidence in my delivery.
Interestingly, it wasn't always this way for me. In my youth, I was incredibly shy and suffered from glossophobia, a fear of public speaking. The idea of speaking in front of a group of people was loathsome to me. If I knew I had to speak in front of the class the next day, I would be awake all night worrying what I was going to say. I didn't get much help from my friends and teachers, so I basically had to figure it out for myself. As a freshman in college, I knew it was time to face my fear, so I took an early morning class in public speaking. The professor was a patient man and we hit if off from the start.
As students, we were asked to give a series of three minutes speeches on different subjects, then five minutes, and then fifteen. I prepared my talks with meticulous detail, but then I discovered something; if I truly mastered the subject matter at hand, there shouldn't be any reason for me to be afraid. After all, I figured, I knew the subject matter better than anyone else in the room, so what was there to be afraid of? "Poof!" The spell was broken, as I learned to speak matter-of-factly with conviction. From then on, I went from defense to offense. It wasn't a matter of imagining the audience naked and inferior to me, but rather if I had confidence in what I was talking about, I wanted to persuade people to see my side of an argument. I believe this phenomenon is called "salesmanship."
Thereafter, I learned about such things as the three canons of speech as represented by ethos (an appeal based on the character of the speaker), pathos (emotional appeal) and logos (logical argument). In discourse, we will likely use all three when making a presentation, but it is necessary for students to understand what they mean and how to use them. As for me, I tend to rely heavily on logos, something I found useful when teaching management and systems subjects. In high school, the one math subject I excelled in was Geometry where you built theorems based on logic, e.g., "If A=B, and B=C, then A must equal C." I found this particularly useful in public speaking as well as in my writings.
Public communications is incredibly important for just about any field of endeavor, and high schools should do more to teach the students this important skill. Personally, I would like to see students stand on a soap box and give a five minute speech to classmates passing by at lunch time. This would help them overcome their fear of speaking and give them the confidence to argue a point. They will need such resiliency throughout their adult life. Speaking from experience, as a young man, I was scared to death initially, but thank God I learned to overcome my fear as it allowed me to become more sociable and productive both in college and the work force.
I only hope my experience will help and encourage young people suffering from glossophobia to overcome their fear. I knew I had conquered mine the moment I realized I actually relished being in front of an audience, instead of behind it.
By the way, I finished my college career with a degree in Communications, specializing in speech and rhetorical thought. Who-da-thunk-it!
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Tim's columns, see: timbryce.com
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