Sweaty hands, shaky legs, and dry mouth. We get extreme anxiety and our brain goes blank, suddenly we find ourselves just standing there, feeling vulnerable and judged as we sink even deeper into the abyss.
We are on stage. You all know that horrible feelings, we try to avoid it at all cost but sometimes we can’t skip it. I am talking about public speaking.
Wait, WTF Just Happened?
About 3 years ago I was asked to deliver a presentation about an exchange program I barely knew anything about. I was dying, I literally spent 2 days just preparing myself mentally for this 5-minute talk.
It got so bad that I had to ask a colleague to join me in search of moral support. Luckily for me, she agreed to come and stand next to me on the stage.
As the moment came, I felt like passing out, almost fully covered in sweat, my shaking knees hiding behind the professor’s desk and my squeaky, nervous voice could barely be heard… It was a horror scene.
From that moment on, I knew that I was in trouble and these were going to be the longest 5 mins of my life.
2 minutes into delivering what can only be described as the most horrible presentation on earth, my colleague jumped in to save my ass, she finished the presentation and we left.
As I walked out of the door, it felt as if I had just come back from a trance and my brain had blocked any recognition of the traumatic incident that just took place. In the midst of the confusion, I did what any rational human being would do, I promised myself that I would never go through that experience again.
From that moment on, I was going to take any public speaking opportunity that came my way. I wanted to get good at talking in public.
Developing Skills are not Supposed to be Easy!
Developing our public speaking skills is not an easy thing to do because they are not tangible, they are cognitive. It’s like getting in shape except that you can’t physically see the benefits of your hard work.
It’s hard to measure our abilities to address audiences. Many times we expect to find key advice that allows us to skip the painful time of hard work and land in perfection land, but just look at the literature, all the tips are the same.
The problem is that we tend to focus on working on the skills rather than focusing on our mindset to approach the problem.
There is no shortcut when it comes to self-development, today when people see me talking in public, they think that I have always been good at it and start creating excuses for themselves of why they can’t do it.
They just don’t realize that I simply worked my ass off for it. I understood that if I wanted to be good at it, I needed to change my mindset and start facing my fear.
Becoming a Better You
After more than 2 years of continuous work on my skills, I can tell you that the journey has been awesome, very, very hard, but awesome. I simply love talking in public.
This new passion has taken me all over Austria more than once, 2 times to Slovakia, and 4 times to Hungary; it almost even took me to Croatia, but I was not available for the dates. As if this were not enough, I have seen a huge improvement in many areas of my life beyond the stage.
My emotional intelligence has increased, my relationships have improved, and, at university, every class where the grade depends mostly on a presentation, it’s for sure an A.
On the professional side, things are better as well, my ability to communicate clearly allows room for less confusion and higher results; I am also better at creating positive change around me, by expanding my circle of influence*, I am able to engage larger audiences and motivate others into action.
Improving your communication skills, in general, has a huge impact on you, it changes the way you approach issues. You develop leadership skills, confidence, ability to work under pressure, which allows you to improve your negotiation and persuasion skills.
And guess what? these are all skills that employers are looking in employees, people are looking in the person they date and society expects from their leaders. By becoming a better speaker, your network of contacts expands, giving you access to projects and resources that you didn’t have before.
Unlike technical skills, developing public speaking skills will have a significant difference in your career. They are very rare and highly valued. It doesn’t matter if you are the best engineer, biologist or mathematician, if you don’t have the ability to communicate your ideas to people, it will be very hard to move forward.
Everybody at one point in their life comes face to face with a situation in which they must communicate in public, so you better start working on it, your job will probably depend on it.
If you want to pursue your passions, you must learn to communicate your ideas to people. Stop avoiding your weakness and start working on them, it will be a challenging process but for sure you will not regret it.
To this day, I still go through a crazy adrenaline rush before I get on stage, but I learned to canalize it in a way that works to my benefit. By coming in with great emotion, preparing in advance, visiting the stage, and picturing me in front of the audience, I am able to forecast how I want it to go down.
The last thing that I expected 3 years ago was that I would be delivering a conference on how to engage, motivate, and inspire audiences into action… Let me know where your skills take you 😉
Make sure to share in the comments below your experience with mastering a new skill. How about your experience with Public Speaking? Would you rather die or simply disappear?
*Circle of Influence is a concept used by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.