Public speaking is often rated as the greatest fear that adults have. Yet speaking by itself is not threatening to most. It’s the public in public speaking that frightens people. Why is this?
Perhaps it’s the way that you learned to speak in public. Most of us started speaking when we were around 1 year old. Our first words were enthusiastically cultivated and celebrated by our parents. Out first public speaking was what we did on the phone to our grand-parents.
Those were the good old days. Every word and sound you made (other than crying) was met with smiles and attention from the adults.
Our next opportunity to experience public speaking was in the grocery store. You learned that our favorite cereal, candy or treat could be ours if we made enough of a public spectacle to embarrass our parent. Yes, this public speaking thing seemed like a good thing – until we got home. Perhaps we were sent to our room. This was sending us mixed messages about public speaking.
Then you went to school. For a budding public speaker this was a gift – a classroom full of an eager audience. Boy, were we wrong. It turned out that every other student wanted to speak at the same time. Why didn’t they realize that your thoughts and words were more important than theirs.
Your years at school brought more opportunities to speak in public. Yet they often seemed like walking through a mine field. You never knew when you might say something dumb or give the wrong answer. The teacher would give you that look and your audience might snicker. And that was just the day-to-day grind of school days. You learned that the public could be very fickle and unappreciative about your speaking.
Public speaking in class was either to ask the teacher a question or to answer the teacher’s questions. Ask a dumb question or give the wrong answer and you might be on the receiving end of the teacher’s ire. Even if you asked good questions and gave the right answers – you only pleased the teacher and raised the distain of your fellow students. This public speaking thing seemed to be a no win situation. Most days it seemed better to avoid it. Keep your hand down and avoid eye contact.
The boldest public speaker was the class clown who seemed to have a natural talent for making jokes, entertaining the audience and annoying the teacher. The teacher was the one who did the most public speaking in class and that was often boring. Neither was a good role model for a future public speaker.
There was the school play. Perhaps you volunteered or were volunteered and you had a few lines to deliver. You rehearsed the lines before and after breakfast and on the way to school. Maybe you were coached by your parents who didn’t have a clue about public speaking or the pressure that you felt. The day of the play you delivered your lines. Perhaps you hated the experience. “Ain’t gonna do that again” – you vowed
So why is there a mystery that so many adults fear public speaking?
Maybe it’s because they have been conditioned that way most of their lives. If you want to be a better public speaker you might need some serious reconditioning.
© George Torok, The Public Speaking Pro, is a Toronto based Public Speaking Trainer. He helps business speakers deliver million dollar presentations. Discover more free public speaking tips at http://www.Public-Speaking-Pro.biz Follow daily public speaking tips at http://twitter.com/presentationsgo For training or coaching call 905-335-1997
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Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives