In a conversation with someone who believes in what I do, they told me, “You are giving people a gift.  You convince them the pain of public speaking is survivable.

As someone who long ago overcame a fear of presenting in public (now I LIKE it!), it’s hard to remember those fears (the Curse of Knowledge).  But enough students come to me with candid apprehension (worry, anxiety, dread, panic, and even horror) that I cannot ignore the reality that a large chunk of the populous legitimately doesn’t like it.  In a safe environment, I lead them to the other side (I don’t expect or demand they like it, but I do expect and demand that they become competent and influential in doing it).

When I was in grad school, an elderly man lived next door.  A card-carrying extrovert whose wife was bed-ridden, he delighted in the few moments he could get outside and would talk to me about anything and everything.  As a WWII veteran, occasionally he would talk about the war.  I remember one of his comments quite vividly as he related his experience in the Battle of the Bulge.  He said, “That battle taught me something very important.  It taught me how much the human mind and body can withstand.”  If you’re even marginally familiar with the history of that epic battle, you’ll know the Allied forces withstood bitter cold, dwindling supplies, and an entrenched and powerful enemy within earshot. Perhaps their greatest challenge was the dipping morale and the will to push forward.  They did, and a key strategic turning point was affected.

I don’t equate public speaking to war.  I’m fortunate enough to have escaped the latter and fortunate to have engaged the former.  But it really has some parallels.  Our life and opportunities are slipping away.  The enemy (the audience?!) is entrenched and we can see them.  As fear takes its grip, it’s our own will that is challenged most.

But we must win.  The experience is survivable.  And when we know what we can endure, we are able to excel and push to accomplishments and influence we would not otherwise have. 

What do you need to survive and push through?  How will you accomplish it?

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