Monday, July 11, 2005

The phobia of public speaking

Tomorrow I get to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers and talk for 15-20 minutes about my workplace.

It ought to be fun. I’m actually looking forward to it. But I didn’t always feel this way.

I remember going to debates in high school, and being in awe of those with the courage to get up in front of their peers and present their side of a proposition. How do they think there?

I would get the stammers just trying to answer a question in class, and I knew that if I were in front of a crowd I would completely freeze. Deer in the headlights, big time! I’ve read that fear of speaking in public is one of the strongest phobias out there.

So, what changed? I think it was my time in the Navy as a jet flight instructor. I had to get up in front of a class of students and give lectures about the various stages of training. I soon realized that I knew more about my subject than my audience did, and my confidence rose.

Since then I’ve conducted countless training classes in an industrial environment, led singing and worship either alone or with others) in several churches for about 15 years, and even had a (tiny) speaking part in a movie!

No, don’t bother searching through Net Flix or some other movie database for my name. The movie was called “Carrier” and was made in 1968 by a British film company, but was never released. Long story!

Public speaking is like a lot of things in life. Most of us can do far more than we think we can. The trick is getting up the nerve to try it the first time, and then again, and again. Soon it’s not only possible, it’s easy!

That’s one reason I would dearly love for Lantz (my agent) to get a book contract for me. I relish the thought of arranging appearances in any venue to talk about and promote my book. No, I’m not talking about Oprah! I just mean as in book signings at the local Hastings or Borders.

Or doing a reading at the local public library. I’ve already been promised that opportunity if I get published. Hey, I live in a small town, remember? They don’t get many local authors at the Victoria County Public Library to present their work.

My problem now is NOT in gathering the courage to get up and speak—it’s in knowing when to shut up and sit down. My younger daughter Amy is called by her peers (and she’s proud of this!) the “Queen of Bullshit.” She acknowledges the title, and claims she came by it honestly, stating to any who will listen, “My father is the king.”

I’ve been known to take a 10-minute topic and expand it into an hour. But you, my myriads of faithful readers (both of you) already know this. So I’ll sit down now, and shut up.


VikiBabbles said...

What about, if you know any other people in your area who write, setting up an informal open-mic reading at your local library or Borders?

Or, check your local university or college english or fiction writing department. They sometimes host open-mic nights as well.

If you live near a big city, you might find a bar or club that hosts open-mics for fiction or poety.

Myself, I have no problem admitting that I went from nervous wreck to boldly sneaking in an extra half-page or page at an open-mic reading at school, and I usually take a good five minutes "setting up" the story by telling twelve other stories before I start reading.

There's such value to reading your own work aloud, before it's published. It's such a wonderful opportunity to gauge the reaction of your audience. There's been times when I thought something was absolutely hilarious or heart-wrenchingly touching, and I've gotten the complete opposite reaction I was expecting (no, not me!)

Maybe I should stop leaving post-length comments on other people's blogs and resume actually posting on my own blog. Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

I was asked to do a booksigning at our local boosktore. I'm an idiot, because I said no. I know this isn't the case, but I'd feel like I was arrogant or else friends would feel obliged to stop by and buy the book.

Ain't I dumb?

the many Bs said...

Wow. A soon-to-be-published author, a movie star, and a public speaker! What a guy. I also think public speaking is fun, as long as I know what I'm talking about. The confidence factor is huge. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Firstly "King of Bullshit", you never have to shut up coz your posts are entertaining.

Secondly. You were a jet fighter instructor? OMG how cool is that! I have always maintained I must have been a man in my previous life as I love naval aviators. When I watch movies, I love how they fly on and off aircraft carriers. I know, I know, trivial information - just live with it.

Thirdly but not lastly *grin* - I do sooooooo hope you can get your book published because I am going to ask the beeg book store here to buy it and then to get you to come out and do a book signing here.

fin said...

I am a wreck speaking in front of others. Even though I have had to do it many times. My anxiety is incredible right before. How people conquer such fear is a mystery to me. I am often in awe when listening to others speak publically. It is a gift.

Tisha from Texas said...

If you didn't know it already, I love to speak in public. Its sick, huh? In speech class, I was the one that enjoyed the impromtu challenge as much as the prepared oration. For me, I want to look at each person in the eye as they buy my book, and tell them thank you. A shoulder rub, maybe? I don't know. I just want the opportunity.
AND for the record, I do get nervous, but I figure if I can treat stroke patients and raise kids, I can speak to strangers.