Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who’s afraid of public speaking?

I once heard a comment that a reason some people become writers is because they don't want to interact with others, let alone give presentations to them. Yet most writers I know do like it.

Or at least they do it.

I’m reading a book called
Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. Early on, he addresses the fairly common claim that public speaking is among the top fears of human beings.

He quotes Mark Twain (and I’ve seen more than one version of this online, but regardless of which is the accurate one, the gist remains the same): “There are two types of speakers. Those who are nervous and those who are liars.”

Under no other circumstance would I be capable of proving Twain wrong, but here, I have found an exception to his theory: me.

I simply don’t get nervous before speaking to an audience—so long as I know what I’m talking about.

I wonder if I should get nervous because I'm supposed to get nervous but don't!

I think the reason I don't get nervous is because I love it, but more analytically, because I've got the floor with (under “normal” circumstances) little likelihood of interruption. Audiences want to like speakers—no matter the topic, they want to be entertained—and I try to channel that positive energy. I believe that some people send silent goodwill in proportion to how fearful they are to speak in public: they emphasize with and admire the speaker at the same time.

Perhaps oddly, sometimes I do get nervous talking in smaller groups or even casual conversation; I can feel rushed, like I have to get it out fast or else I won't get to finish my thought.

In the end, we all speak. And, as Berkun notes, we all publicly speak. We just don’t always remember that we’re allegedly afraid of it.

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