Diary of First time Public Speaker

Two weeks back I was cordially invited along with two other people to speak at the Delhi chapter of the Rotary Club, for a session on ‘Emerging Young Achievers- How did they do it?’ When the organizer lady told me the topic of the session, I laughed and said ‘Really me? An emerging achiever? Wow! Even I did not know that, so how come you guys knew it?’ Then the lady said ‘Err…you published a book called Life’s Macchiato-A collection of short stories, didn’t you? Hence, you are one and we would like to hear from you about your journey with this book.’ I was then tongue tied and sheepishly replied ‘Well, of course I have published a book and am proud of it. Sure, I would love to speak.’ I was sitting smug and prancing about telling myself ‘Woohoo! You are a young achiever…Yayy!! After the hoopla in my mind settled, then came the ‘good’ part wherein it dawned upon me that, err…you also have to think and prepare what you are going to speak.
So, I checked on the format of the session, duration of the speech, audience background and number of attendees. With that information, was figuring out what I was going to speak easy? Not at all  I was still as blank as the time when I first heard about the invitation. So, what did I do? I decided to mentally note some key points about my journey with the book, why it is so close to my heart and end it with some simple inspirational quotes and personal learnings about chasing one’s dream. D-Day arrived, and there I was at the venue dot on time; all set in my mind and heart to speak at my first ever public event. While I was chatting with the guests, the other two co-speakers were busy cramming up their speeches like a kid cramming up math tables. On the other hand, I was busy gulping down some much needed hot coffee and betting on who would win the French Open Men’s singles finals. Was I perturbed? Not at all, in fact despite the massive preparations the other two colleagues had done, I was called up to speak first because I simply agreed to and of course, I wanted the first mover advantage of setting the bar. The room had twenty odd people and after a quick introduction by the convener of the session, I was called up at the podium. I took a deep breath, looked at my audience and then words came out like a natural flow of water. I kept in mind the structure of the speech and let my heart choose the right words to convey the meaning. It was amazing to see how everyone’s eyes were on you, nodding their heads in agreement and for the first time the tables turned wherein I was asked questions in a Q & A session rather than the other way round. At the end of it, I was so energized that I managed to make a sales pitch for my book and sell a few copies of it too. Not bad eh? I inspired a few, was applauded by all and most importantly a sense of accomplishment flowed through my body.
Yes, up and until recently, like many of us; I also had a fear of public speaking. Now I can safely say that, here is what worked for me-:
1.Acknowledge the fear- It is OK to have fears and feel scared from time to time. Our fears keep us human and grounded. You would not be punished to have fears because we are not Gods. Learn to express that a fear exists and then find ways to tackle it.
2.Never lose an opportunity to speak or present- I grabbed any opportunity that came my way to present or talk- whether to a single person or a group of people. I consciously tried many styles of speaking before understanding my natural style of a simple conversation style of speaking. That is how you would get to practice, find your natural style and improve.
3.Prepare and practice- There are no shortcuts to preparation and practice. If you need to- write your script and speak it aloud in front of a mirror or a buddy who would give you feedback. I have written and practiced the articulation, tone and speed of my speech many times before I went into a presentation or meeting. That really boosted my confidence up a lot.
4.Ask for feedback – After any presentation or meeting, try and gather feedback from the audience to understand what worked well and what did not. This is the best way you can improve.
5.Relax- I know this is cliche but nothing throws you off your game more than filling your mind with the worst case scenario analysis. This is very common and easier said than done. But it will do you wonders if you can minimize this as much as possible. The more you speak and present, the more you would learn to relax. Why? Because you have been there and done that.
Just remember one thing, that after all this you will experience a feeling of a ‘Big win’ which I experienced and that was one of the proudest moments of my life- which is really hard to pass by. Like I always say, enjoy the journey as much as the destination. So, focus on the destination and never give up trying to reach it.

One thought on “Diary of First time Public Speaker

  1. This was a wonderful experience even to hear about. I am sure you loved the experience. Wishing you many more moments of joy and euphoria!

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