Imagine you were given a task against your will. A task to deliver a speech. There you were standing in front of a bunch of people you don’t know. A gazillion pairs of eyes were locked on you and waiting for you to make the first move – waiting for you to say something. Your heart rate is racing a mile a minute. There are butterflies in your stomach. Your palms began to sweat and you could not control your hands (and sometimes knees) from shaking. It is a terrifying experience indeed.
For those of you who went through the struggle, I just want you to know that your public speaking experience you had was precious. Just like every growth process, you will feel weird and uncomfortable at first. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Probably, for some of you, that was an embarrassing moment which you would like to forget. Don’t take it personally. Life will continuously teach you a lesson until you learn it. And, have faith in yourself that you will graduate from these Life Lessons as you overcome them one by one.
It is no wonder why Public Speaking is the #1 Fear cited by many sources. It could be the most common nervous-breakdowns that most human beings have. And, the fact that it is a fearful experience is not accurate. Virtually, nobody died from speaking in front of public, you agree?
Then, why is public speaking still our biggest fear? What makes it so scary?
I have been researching for data on the internet the last few weeks and found that Malaysians see and feel public speaking differently from what I had read online.
Here are Top 3 Reasons Most Malaysians prefer not to speak in public:-
1. THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM
There are many different languages spoken in Malaysia, let’s use English as an example here.
Most Malaysians whom I have interviewed will give me these typical answers:-
“My English is not good enough….”
“Later people will laugh at me….”
“I tak boleh presentation English all the way.”
“Cannot lah, shy lah… England no good….”
“I’m not confident in my English… later sure don’t know what to say.”
Yes, I understand that the English language is not our first language for most of us. It is not our mother tongue, too. (Unless you stay in a certain area or grew up in a certain environment, then maybe English is your first language. However, for most of us, English is not.)
I am sorry that you have a misperception that mastering a language is important when it comes to public speaking. I just want you to know that your spoken language is not as important as these few truths:-
a. You do not do public speaking to show off your language ability. That’s not how most people do it. You do it because you have a message for your people and you know that message can make an impact in their lives. You do it because your reason to do it far exceeds your excuses of not doing it, do you follow so far?
b. You do not have to be perfect to start. All you need to do is start! You will prepare for your presentation, I am sure. Ask your friends for help, take up English classes, speak English in your daily conversations – you do whatever it takes to get you closer to your goals! You will prepare for your presentation if you know that you need time to master your language so that people can understand you, right?
c. You can always practice and master your communication skill (including fixing your language problems) by putting yourself in front of a group of audience who is willing to support you in your presentation and offer constructive feedback. Your English level will continue to be stuck where it is so long you do not use it, fair enough?
Have you been to a presentation where the presenter was clearly not the native speaker, yet that person was able to make an impact in your life because you were one of those audience seated there? That is the power of becoming a great speaker. It is not important how fluent or grammatically correct you need to be when you present.
More importantly, it is your attitude towards your own presentation. Who is most enthusiastic about your message? (You!) Who is more passionate about delivering the message? (You!) Who cares the most for the audience? (You!) Who makes the presentation count? (You!)
It is YOU the presenter who makes the presentation count. You are the one who made sure that your audience gets their BIG LESSONS, their AHA moments or their EUREKA discoveries when they spend time with you. So it does not matter how poor in language you speak, as long as you make it up by being RICH in your attitude, energy, body language, content and activities in your delivery.
2. DEALING WITH MY OWN HUMAN PROBLEM
I am a human after all, so it is natural to feel nervous or imagine bad things happening before I speak. It is also natural to worry about the “what-if’s” situation – what if the mind goes blank? What if I trip and fall? What if nobody laughs at my jokes? What if…. (the list goes on.)
Question: Will you ever stop feeling those butterflies in your stomach? Well, yes and no. It really depends how much you know how to handle your own butterflies. Butterflies will be there to remind you that you are human after all. You have feelings; you are conscious of yourself and you need to be kept on your toes to continuously do better each time. Those are the reasons why humans have such emotions – so that we know there is always room for improvement.
I rather you not suppress or remove the butterflies in order to become an emotion-less robot. It does not mean you are perfect by becoming a mistake-free speaker. You are perfect when you truly become the person you really are. We know how robots talk – they make no mistakes. They operate within a set of codes. Someone fed these robots some data and it gets spit out exactly the same – word for word.
Have you been to a presentation where the speaker spoke like he was memorising his script? What was your experience with that? (Please take a moment to comment in the box below)
Here is the human problem – the problem of being afraid to make mistakes. When you bring it to the extreme to “prevent” yourself from making mistakes, you fail being a human. And, your audience can tell whether you are speaking from the heart or from the script. In fact surviving in today’s distractions, the more robotic you are, the less disconnect you get. If you have a great message that can change someone’s life, please take the effort to work on your authenticity and power. You have your own unique individuality and charm that can overcome almost all of your human problems when you do public speaking… provided you know how to use it.
3. WORRYING ABOUT “MANY OTHER” PROBLEMS
There are always other people or other external factors that will bug us. After all, you never knew when you would get sent to jail for saying the wrong things in public. You never knew when you would cause anger to your audience when you said the wrong things. You never knew when you would get bombarded by some smart aleck in the class. Maybe some weird audience would appear and make your life so miserable you wished you wouldn’t have been born. Maybe some technology hiccups would occur. Maybe something from somewhere popped up to screw up your presentation.
Yes, things will happen – of course it will happen. The only way to handle this is to become BIGGER THAN THE PROBLEM. What it means is that, instead of seeing it as a problem, see it as an opportunity to grow. Learn how to handle those “hiccups” as they come along. Remember, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.
You can claim my signature 2-hour FREE Public Speaking Training by visiting our events page at www.successfactorytraining.com
I hope that this article opens up your perspective to view public speaking in a different light. Instead of seeing it as a terrifying experience or from the point of view that you are not good enough, start learning how to cultivate that self-confidence and self-belief that you can become a great speaker, too.
All the best,
The Success Factory Team
The Success Team
Energetic bunch of entrepreneurs who cannot sit still!
Contributor. Cynthia is a Public Speaking and Communication Trainer. She is also the founder of The Success Factory.