Fear is common to all. Some fear the dark; some others spiders or snakes or cockroaches; some others fear public speaking. Let us look at some of the most common excuses given to avoid speaking in public.
#1. My English Vocabulary Is Poor
Let me put across a sentence to you: I today bike ride came office. I hope you got the meaning. Did I use proper grammar here? No. But did you get the idea I wanted to convey. Yes. The truth is that you don’t need big words nor grammar to communicate. But it is great if you can use correct English. Without grammar it is probably like riding a car on a bumpy road; while on the other hand it will seem like a glide.
And you don’t need big words to communicate well. Robert Frost’s “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, And I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep,” continues to fascinate readers. The depth of meaning communicated is huge; but the words chosen are simple for even a little child to understand. So also you go for simple words.
#2. I Forgot My Points Last Time
All speakers experience this from time to time. The simplest thing you can do is to note down the main headings of your speech on a card. Keep it with you. The confidence it brings, and the freedom you feel is big. Give your notes an occasional glance. That is all that is needed to keep your worries away. It is like the confidence a car driver has because of him having a stepney or spare tyre ready in case of a puncture on road.
In case you need additional help, just note down a few key words in big bold letters underneath the main headings. That will reassure you that your mind will not go blank when you speak. You can even make the note cards colourful with highlighters, crayons or sketch pen markings.
#3. I Don’t Have Enough Knowledge
Now this is true for many. But should it stop you from speaking? No. Then what is the best thing you can do. Create a habit of reading. Keep notes of what you read. You can refer to them when you prepare a talk. The problem comes when you take a plain, simple, direct approach to the topic. Instead try to have depth in your talk. For example when you talk about marriage; do not limit your talk to simply love in marriage. You can talk about the role of compatibility, finances, cultural and ideological conflicts, parental influences, work-life balance, raising up children, and of course guarding your married life from eroding influences from all around.
If you want to talk about the Cross; along with the primary understanding that it was about God’s love for you and Jesus’ once for all sacrifice for sins for all mankind; you can also add it is God’s plus sign with a vertical plane pointing to man’s upward relationship with God (love towards God) and a horizontal plane denoting our relationship with our neighbours (love for others).
#4. I Feel Like a Failure
The speaker on stage is like a lone man in a battlefield facing an army unit of hundreds. No wonder he feels vulnerable. If the speaker is thinking about how best he is delivering his speech; he is trying an impossible task. Feeling like a failure is the only result possible. The practical point is that emotions are at play when you try to assess your speech during or immediately following your speech. Like wild waves of the sea it will hit you. Be like a rock. Or else it will drown you.
The truth is that because you tried to do your best; you are not a failure. But there is always room for improvement. You need also to understand that speeches can fail in spite of your best effort. Therefore the best attitude is to prepare best, deliver best and move on and try to improve upon the best you did last time. In such a pursuit you reach towards excellence.
#5. What Do I Do with My Hands?
Some hold the Mike; others the lectern; and still others cut the air with both hands. Some rub the chin, others twist their hair and still others play with their dress. Yes it takes time to master what to do with your hands. When you are nervous, you tend to use hand movements more than what is needed or necessary. So it is important to identify what mannerisms you have and replace them with meaningful actions. Ask a trusted friend to help you with this. Watching a video of your presentation might discourage you; so a friend’s help is best.
Know that actions have more impact when you put your whole body behind it. Actions also are more emphasized when what you say and what you show with your hands speak the same thing. As you grow in experience you will learn to be more comfortable using your hands well while speaking.
#6. I Have Nothing Interesting to Say
There are two sides to this. One is content, the other is how you say it. Well, how you say it will take some time to master. But you can always pick up threads from your life and weave it into colourful stories. A person who says:
“It was during my days at College that I met this person. What struck me most about him was his generous heart when he gifted me a shirt after one of his tours. It was years later that he told me that at that time he himself didn’t have many shirts to wear. But simply because he liked me; he had gifted that cotton shirt of twilight lavender shade. Imagine having such an attitude at just 16 years of age. Even though the pocket of that shirt was torn when I had a fight with my sister; with the passing of years my relationship with my friend has grown and stayed strong!”
A person who says a true story like that will have his audience listen to him with interest. So dig deep into your memories and you will find a treasure of stories to share.
#7. What Will Others Think About Me
People have so many things to think and worry about already. So it is foolishness to think that they have suspended all that to think about you–your dress, your fluency, your mistakes and so on. With the kind of high engagement people have with social media and their mobiles; it is highly likely that they don’t have any time to think about you. Why worry therefore what others think about you?
By the way, do you have any control over what anyone thinks about you; be it good or bad? Hope you got the point. You just focus on delivering your speech as best you can today. Even if you try hard; you can never please all in your audience. Can you?
Jesus Christ of Nazareth