“Are you a born speaker?”
That question never stops to amuse me. The answer is NO.
My skills at public speaking were evident at an early age. Once during High school, the teacher asked every student to address the class. The question was simple “What do you want to become when you grow up?“
I knew what I wanted to become. I knew what I wanted to say.
However, when I stood in front of my class, nothing came out of my mouth.
I spoke to the class standing scared stiff without uttering a single word. It was a shame. It was a failure.
Every failure teaches us something. I learnt three lessons that day.
One, the meaning of the word petrified. Two, what butterflies in tummy feel like. Three, never try this ever gain.
Lack of public speaking skills didn’t bother me much. Sometimes, it was amusing to see how people who have little to say can speak loudly for long. Most of them prospered well and some of them became my bosses. I have heard my peers commending my bosses, “Boss, you speak well!” (Which meant – you are good for little else)
“Public speaking was for people who do not know how to speak quietly in private. Smart people don’t speak. They listen, think and act!” Such self-serving thoughts were always handy. Fortunately, the mind has an amazing power to provide plentiful reasons to prove that we are right, under all circumstances. Why is that most people are afraid of public speaking? It did intrigue me; but that was nothing to lose sleep over.
The Moment of Truth
Things started to change after my son’s birth. To start with, I was no longer the most important man in my wife’s life 🙁 . It suits me to believe I had that honour before. The arrival of our daughter a year and a half later changed things even more. I was just not important, the children got all the attention :-(. Whoever said child is father of the man, might have been a father. Just that it really means children control father’s destiny.
When our son was four years old, my wife and I trained him for days for a ‘show-n-tell’ session. After persistent practice through pushy pedantic procedures, he could deliver every line with energy and enthusiasm in his homely home. On the ‘show-n-tell’ day, Dad and Mom accompany him with video camera in tow to record the precious moments of a child prodigy in action. [I was convinced that my children will be famous one day. In the distant future, when media throngs our home, we should be ready with their childhood videos. See, I am a practical parent with significant foresight.]
Lights ON, camera rolls and my prodigious son walks up on stage. He freezes up on seeing the audience. Oops! This was not his cosy home anymore. He delivers everything vividly and accurately, but it was only in his mind! Oh! That bliss of silence! What brutal assault on parental self-esteem! At that instant, I clearly understood the pain of my parents’ past predicaments involving me.
Lights OFF, plight ON. On our drive home, there were lots to express and discuss. Emotions varied from anger, sadness, frustration, sympathy, contemplation and fault-allocation to the appropriate parental genes.
A series of similar episodes encouraged me to be a positive example for my children to look up to. I soon took upon myself to improve my communication skills and leadership skills. I befriended an expert speaker who helped me learn the ropes.
While I learned the ropes, I fumbled and faltered, but persisted. Public speaking soon became a solemn diversion for engagement and expression. That also improved my communications with my wife – Yes Dear; I learned that eye-contact and listening are fundamental facets of communication.
Door of opportunity opens
I felt tempted to volunteer for every opportunity to speak, regardless of whether it was to deliver an inspirational talk, be an Emcee, do stand-up comedy or enter speech contests. Before I knew it I was speaking at the semifinals of the World Championship of Public Speaking, speaking amongst the top 100 speakers worldwide. People invited me to write books, to deliver speeches and to provide advice. The more I spoke, the more confident I became.
When my confidence grew, I became more effective in my interpersonal relationships, I felt more comfortable to be myself. Despite all these, there is nothing special about me, however the tips, tricks and techniques I learned from my mentors helped me to make rapid progress in a lot less time. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I started to teach and coach anyone who was keen to learn this skill! It is not that difficult after all.
The Game Changer
The more I spoke, the better I became, the better I became, the more I got invited to speak. I got more recognition, respect and reward because I was able to communicate my thoughts, ideas, views and opinions way better than I used to.
Looking back it was not easy, but it was lot easier than it first seemed, especially after I learned the right skills, in the right way, from the right experts. As Madame Currie once said “Nothing in this world is to be feared…… only understood”. (Cynical people add “except for marriage”)
From my experience and from the experiences of others who I have taught, coached or mentored, I have come to this conclusion.
If you can express your thoughts, clearly, confidently and convincingly, you will have an enormous advantage over others who cannot. That led me to find Thought Expressions to help others learn to do, what I couldn’t once do.
Folks who are able to communicate their ideas and thoughts, clearly, confidently and convincingly, gets noticed and listened to. They progress faster in their careers and life. Some become bosses. It does not make them much smarter, but it makes them become more self-assured. It makes their life a lot easier. It empowers them to empower others around them.
When I speak in public, I sometime still have butterflies in my tummy. The more I spoke, the more the butterflies started to fly in sync, making it a joyful occasion. But when people tell me, “Boss, you speak well!” I scratch my clear head. Are they making fun of me?
This blog is an excerpt from my article that was published in a Singapore Press Holding publication in October 2011.
What about you?
What has been your most embarrassing public speaking experience? What happened?
Use the comment section below and tell me about it!
© 2014, Manoj Vasudevan. All rights reserved.