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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.

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?    

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  1. Kris G.
    Kris G.04-21-2012

    I love the way you communicate, Mark, your blog and your speaking. I remember an afternoon where you encouraged homeschooling moms not so long ago. I can actually remember much of what you spoke about, and that’s a huge indicator of your success! 🙂

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia04-23-2012

      Kris you are so awesome. Thank you. However, the secret, that afternoon, was that you homeschooling moms rock!! It’s easy to encourage great people.


    Great post Mark!!!…

    As a minister of the Gospel I have found that it is unbelievably easy to sell what you Love!!!… Believe!!.. and are Passionate about!!!….

    As a matter of fact I love sharing the Gospel so much that I would pay others to tell them about this Jesus Christ that I am honored to serve…

    Blessings!!! 🙂

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia04-20-2012

      It is an honor to serve -you are correct! I am sure beyond a reason of a doubt that you are an extreme blessing to the body of Christ. There is a level of speaking that is good. However, the best have the qualities you mentioned – Love, Belief and Passion. Thanks to you and your wife for the daily encouragement on your blog. Fantastic! http://www.alifeofmiracles.com.

  3. pastorjeffcma

    This is going to sound strange but either I don’t get nervous or I am so nervous all the time that now I think it feels normal. 🙂 I have really enjoyed these posts on public speaking. In fact, I recommended today on my blog post that my readers need to check them out.

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia04-20-2012

      Ha! You’re not so strange Pastor Jeff just a man on a mission! Thanks for the recommendation on your post the other day. I am honored. I really like your voice in defense of the Christian faith and Biblical insights. (For my readers, P. Jeff’s blog is a must! http://pastorjeffcma.wordpress.com.)

  4. Roger Boetger
    Roger Boetger04-19-2012

    Know your material. If you don’t know your material, you will have trouble engaging and if you can’t engage then how can you encourage. Without encouragement where will hope and belief come from for those without it? If you know your material you can impart hope and belief easily because you will be engaged and encouraging rather than trying to keep your place in your notes. You may even find speaking off the cuff easy and refreshing, rather than frightening and unexpected. Imagine being happy and excited to speak rather than nervous.

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia04-20-2012

      Great point Roger, I actully like speaking off the cuff on topics I am well versed in. To you point about being happy and excited I changed my internal talk many years ago to – I get to speak rather – I have to speak. It did make a big difference.

  5. Ed Roden
    Ed Roden04-18-2012

    I highly recommend Toastmasters as an opportunity to speak and learn.

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia04-18-2012

      Thanks Ed! I have numerous friends who say the same thing. What a great reminder to those of us who can’t get enough. Toastmasters it is!

  6. Merit K
    Merit K04-18-2012

    So did you win the election? My coping method for public speaking; I don’t really love public speaking, but I remind myself that I can do it & I am willing and often there are few who are! So I just get in there and do it 🙂

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia04-18-2012

      OK here is the deal. I did win but…the meetings happened in the a.m. when me and my friends would play football. Try as I might – the pull of playground athletics outpaced my note taking abilities. I handed my spot over the the other student who ran against me. (shhh – don’t tell anyone, this is supposed to be a leadership blog!) 🙂

      More great words – “Get in there and do it!”

      Thanks Merit – and by the way we also fell naturally into Charlotte Mason style of schooling. It reminds me a lot of my college liberal arts education. Thanks for your blog!!!

      • Merit K
        Merit K04-19-2012

        Your secret is safe with me, Mark! So glad to hear that CM was a natural style for your family too 🙂

  7. Tina Z
    Tina Z04-18-2012

    Thanks for sharing, Mark. There is one big ‘lesson’ that I always tend to remember when I have to or have chosen to speak in public…. God gave me a voice for a reason! In all the executive meetings I’ve had to endure in my job of 18 years, I’m always amazed at how little people actually speak up….MYSELF, included. It stems from youth when I never believed I was worthy enough. I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve learned that change WON’T come if no one speaks up. When I’ve had the courage to say something that could help or inspire, when co-workers and executives are all looking straight at ME, I always remember what my mom and dad, Sunday school and even college professors have taught me…..GOD GAVE ME A VOICE FOR A REASON! I AM WORTHY enough. It helps!

    • Mark Mathia
      Mark Mathia04-18-2012

      Thanks Tina what great words – “I am Worthy enough!”

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