I’m terrified… speaking in public

It takes a good deal of courage to introduce someone to something we are newly in love with ourselves.

Speaking in public or oral communication is relational.

It’s a complex conjunction of relationships – the relationship the speaker or performer has with their message, the relationship the audience has with the performer and the relationship the audience has with the performer’s message or ideas being communicated orally – each occurring individually, collectively and concurrently.

Dealing with these relationships can be challenging but is paramount to the successful communication of thoughts and ideas orally.

We become terrified as a speaker when these relationships are incompletely formed; when we fail to reconcile their relationality before delivering our message to our audience. We dread introducing others to these incompletely formed relationships.

Our terror emerges when we fear this new relationship or way of thinking will fail; when we fear the audience won’t see the picture we are trying to paint for them because in essence can’t see it ourselves.

How do I stop being terrified?

Firstly, we need to understand what it means for oral communication to be relational; what it means to have an intimate relationship with what we say; what it means to own our message.

Secondly, we need to understand what it means for the audience to be introduced to our ideas, as when introducing a friend, we need to introduce the audience to that aspect of the message that is its most fascinating and seductive quality.

NOT the detail; NOT a list of achievements, NOT a rundown of attributes, dimensions or stats.

We should let the audience discover this information for themselves once they are persuaded of the original argument.

As with any new relationship, when we speak in public, we are in essence introducing the audience to a person or argument unfamiliar to them. If they were familiar with the message then the need to express it publicly would be moot.

As with any new relationship that is important to us when we make the initial introduction we fear the outcome; we fear that what we say will not have the resonance with the audience it has for us personally; that our failure to understand our own relationship with the topic will be publicly exposed for all to see.

What should it feel like?

The audience should be humming your tune as they get up and leave.

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