Speaking Beyond Insecurities
In fifth grade, the gym auditorium at Parr Elementary School was the most massive gathering place on planet earth. Stepping forward to the microphone, I reached into my pocket and took out a crumbled piece a paper. On it the words my Dad prepared the night before. He offered me this explanation:
“Say this son and you will win. You need to sound presidential.”
Tentatively and imperfectly I rushed the recitation. My nerves getting the best of me. At this point, I considered a fart joke to lessen the tension. In the audience sat everyone I had ever known. Friends and foe alike they listened to my father’s political rant on why I would make the best student council secretary.
This is how it all started. Truth be told I did not want to be the secretary of the student council. I simply wanted to speak.
Since that time, I have given hundreds of talks, speeches, lessons, and coaching sessions. I love to communicate. However, I am still a work in process.
My voice is not deep and resonate. To me, it sounds nasally and unbecoming. My annunciation and diction can use some work, and I still rush the script. I get nervous and my mind locks up like the village idiot upon talking to a beautiful princess. I sweat like a water buffalo or worse yet, Al Gore campaigning in the Georgia heat. Most of the time I feel pudgy and self-conscious.
Trust me if I were God I would not pick me to speak.
I am not God-and He did pick me.
So what’s a person to do?
Rather, than spending the rest of my life running away from God, like Jonah, only to be swallowed by a Nebraskan whale – I decided to make the best of it. To enjoy God, life and speaking whenever I get the opportunity. Here, are some of my best coping methods to get that done.
First, I study the art of speaking. I am convinced that the more I study technique the better prepared I become. I made a commitment to life long learning. I do this for survival, but whatever gets you going – do that. Here, are two of my favorite books on speaking.
I also watch one TED video (www.ted.com) at least three times a week and analyze the speaker’s presentation. Yep, I’m a judger. This is my turn to be critical of someone else so that I might improve myself. I take a close look at the good and poor attempts making notes along the way. I pay attention to body language, visuals, and phrasing.
If, you are a tentative speaker like myself check out this iPhone application.
- Rexi Media’s Presenter Pro – It’s impressive and free.
Second, I changed my internal attitude about speaking. For the most part, in the United States we view speakers as the experts. Truth be told this viewpoint has not been helpful for me. I can’t think of one time when I have felt like the “expert” in the room. So I decided that Jesus was talking to me as well when He offered this advice.
“And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35, ESV
When I speak I serve. I decide to wash the feet (figuratively) of the audience. This attitude changes everything. I no longer care about how grandiose or small the crowd is. I no longer worry about my voice, pudginess or sweat. I am there to honor and serve whoever will listen. This mindset is transformational. It is changing me from an OK speaker to an imperfect speaker that can influence others.
I have stumbled upon a crazy little secret – people actually like realness. My hero is John Maxwell. This dude can speak. Great voice – the real deal. However, many of those closest to me feel that he is too polished , and this makes it difficult to relate.
It’s exceptionally easy to relate to real.
Finally, I speak. Whenever I get the chance to get up in front of one or more people to speak – I do it. Nothing helps me overcome my quips more than practice. Practice, practice, practice – you can never underestimate the value of preparedness. When I know my material well, I can’t help but feel confident.
Finishing my speech in fifth grade, I folded my piece of paper and stuffed it into my denim pocket. Sitting down I faced the crowd prepared to watch the amusing, old-fashion hand vote.
Nothing like instant feedback.
Your Turn – What is your best coping method when it comes to overcoming the fears associated with public speaking?