Fear of public speaking

Being uncomfortable in Tesco 

I am naturally shy. You might say a little bit of an introvert. In certain situations, I have to force myself to speak up.

This shyness of mine is that bad, I get a bit weird in the local supermarket. If I see someone I know, I’ll start speaking and I will go red. Why, I have no idea and it is frustrating!

To save myself any awkwardness, I have even got a tactic that I started to use a few years ago. Basically, I won’t stand around chewing the fat with people I know in the supermarket. I will be polite say hello and crack on with my shopping.

Don’t get me wrong, if I saw my Mam, I would probably talk to her. But anyone from school or a former colleague is getting a polite hello.

New job in NI

Back in mid 2020, I got a project engineer role in Northern Ireland. Previously, my roles were all site based. This was my first office-based role. Well, 70% office, 30% site. Anyway, my natural shyness continued into this new role.

Everyone wanted to talk to me. Not because I am special or anything – far from it. I just realised that everyone was friendly and wanted to chat. I would highly recommend NI by the way. Beautiful country and most importantly, the people I met were friendly, down to earth and good crack as they say in NI.

This was uncomfortable for my inner introvert. I would talk very quietly and even mumble. Fuck me, this really pissed me off!

Part of my role, we had a lot of TEAMS meetings. I even had to chair some of the meetings as I was looking after parts of the project.

Yes, I was uncomfortable, and yes, I mumbled.

But as time went on, I got a bit more comfortable. I started to find my voice.

Practice. Practice. Practice. I got a speeko app on my phone and started to practice speaking. I done 20 mins in the morning and 20 mins after work. This went on every day for about 4 months as I knew how important it was to speak confidently. Communication is massively important, especially in a project environment.

Public speaking NI

I took it another step further. I was determined to improve my communication skills so went looking for professional help.

This led me to public speaking NI. To say I was nervous is an understatement.

Sinead was the voice coach and she really helped me to improve my public speaking.  We went through various exercises and I got an assessment.

It felt weird talking about my job to a speaking coach. It felt really weird reading poems out loud and describing my favourite film. This was me, well and truly out of my comfort zone.

I was told I had a slightly monotone voice. An understatement as I knew I had a very monotone voice! I was also told I was very softly spoken and that my voice dropped at the end of sounds. This was good information and I could continue to practice with my speeko app.

The point is I was willing to give it a go. I was trying anything to gain some much-needed confidence and it worked. I got to a point where I looked forward to Zoom meetings and just turned up and give it my best.

I wasn’t worried about how I was perceived or if I made a mistake.

The surprising secret to speaking with confidence

My little public speaking obsession led me to a couple of TED talks. I am going to share some secrets from a popular TED talk from Caroline Goyder: Caroline Goyder TED talk

She goes back to Ancient Greece. Using a little story about Demosthenes to demonstrate a point. That practice can help you to become a confident speaker.

Demosthenes wanted to be a great speaker. Or a great orator as it was known back then. But he had a few issues. He had a stutter and a lisp. People made fun of him when he spoke.

He made it his goal to become a brilliant and renowned orator. He recited speeches and trained himself to speak clearly.

To do this he practiced shouting over ocean waves. He also practised reciting speeches as he ran up hills.

This led to him becoming a famous politician. And also led to him being one of the most famous orators of his time. Practice. Practice. Pracitce.

The talk continues. Caroline goes into detail about 3 lessons.

Lesson 1 is to practice every day. And a way of practising is to sing. So, guess what, I sing Queen song’s in the shower every day.

Fuck it, I want to speak confidently, and I’ll try anything.

Lesson 2 is to breathe though the diaphragm and talk on the exhale. From my training with NI Public Speaking, you breathe in through the nose during a pause, and talk as you breathe out.

Lesson 3 is we breathe our thoughts. Breathe low and slow. We inhale thought. So, if we are thinking about our nearest and dearest as we inhale, the theory goes that we would speak with love and passion on the out breath.

Focus on the in breath and the out breath will look after itself.

This video is worth a watch!

If you are nervous about an upcoming speech or presentation, try and use some of the above techniques. They have worked for me.

Look at some of my embarrassing stories within DUFFMONEY: First ever sales pitch

If you want to discuss anything speech related, leave a comment. I will try and help you with my own experience. If not, I am confident I can point you in the right direction. Where there is a will, there is a way!

Book of the week: How to Develop Self-Confidence and Improve Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie. Carnegie encourages the reader to practice, practice, practice. There are loads of tried and tested techniques that help the reader to improve their public speaking. This timeless classic is well worth a read if you are interested in improving your public speaking.

For a hard copy visit the excellent Imagined Things Bookshop: Imagined things.

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