Public Speaking

In Digital, Life, Social Media, Technology on December 1, 2011 by kiltforhire

If you met me and spoke to me at work or in a bar or randomly while waiting for a train you would assume me confident, out-going and very talkative. My father, genetically and informatively, gave me a tad of his charisma and I use it wisely – a bit like if I had The Force – however one of these days I will have to confront my fear of public speaking.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of being invited on the ABC’s Big Ideas show to take part in a debate on “Is the screen mightier than the sword?” and before the show I was absolutely bricking myself that I would freeze, swear, kick over the lectern or simply strip off my shirt shouting “I’m Spartacus”.

Thankfully I didn’t do any of those things. Well except from swear. I may have done that by accident. Oh and I may have also froze. And I did think about kicking the lectern when I said something totally and utterly dumb.

I don’t know where my fear comes from. I have acted on stage and never really got butterflies and always enjoyed it but there is something about public speaking that freaks me out.

I used social media examples as a way to prove the screen was indeed mightier than the sword and I believe that as technology increases we will enter a better world for all mankind. More communication is no bad thing.

But while talking at the event my hands were shaking so I grabbed on to the lectern to try and stabilise myself only to find it was a it wobbly – so if you do watch the program feel free to not think I’m drunk. I’m just sober and unstable. Not mentally unstable. Well maybe a little.

My throat dried up as I was speaking.

I blabbed on in my Scottish accent throwing words out as fast as that General Electrics M134 mini-gun in Predator shoots bullets. The one that Blane uses.

My timed nine minute speech was suddenly over in seven minutes.

Maybe it’s better to say less than more but what if you said more but in the less timeframe??

I didn’t know what to do. Do I stand there and keep making my point? Or do I walk away and run back to my seat crying Freedom!!

I did neither of course. I said thank you, looked sheepish and stealth’d back to my seat.

Doing the talk reminded me that I should stick to talking to small groups and generally hiding in the background rather than being the centre of attention. I don’t like it when people focus on me – maybe for fear they will see the real me? An over-weight, greying, stubbly, short Scotsman with a wonky eye.

6 Responses to “Public Speaking”

  1. Scott I think you’re being a wee bit harsh on yourself – I’ve heard you speak to a reasonable sized group and you were articulate, funny, informative and generally a great speaker.

    Though you have made me really keen to see the show if only to watch you not being drunk!

  2. You should do the toastmasters international course. An old job once required me to present often to large groups of people so I took the course to help me overcome my fear of public speaking. It worked!

    • The funny thing is that I used to do acting with no problems at all. I can stand up and talk to people while pretending to be someone else but so tough when I do public speaking. Weird

  3. I have the same issue. Did performing arts through Uni, most of which was on stage and was fine. Soon as the public speaking rears its ugly head the incredible speed of the words as they projectile vomit out is quite spectacular. A show in itself really.

  4. Acting is different from speaking. When you act, you are playing someone else and the audience will respond according to how well you do the character. In speaking, you are yourself, and that can be a whole new experience.

    First, you are not alone and likely better than many actors. I saw Warren Beatty, a fine actor, receive an award for his performance in a movie. He decided to discuss an issue while accepting an award. He rambled on and on for nearly 10 minutes, saying little nothing. Sean Penn was on a talk show one time and he also seemed incoherent and stumbling to answer questions.

    Two key items for reducing fear. One, be conversational. Converse with the audience as if you are discussing an issue with your best friend. It helps by making eye contact with individuals in the audience. Two, focus on the audience, not yourself. What is the message you want to deliver to the audience, i.e. “the screen IS indeed mightier than the sword.” Ask yourself why, and then answer the question with passion and vigor.

    I too, strongly encourage you to join a Toastmasters club. I do want to clarify Kel’s description of Toastmasters. It is not a course. It’s more like a laboratory for communications and leadership. It is a great place to practice speeches in front of a supportive members of a club. When you speak, you will be evaluated on how well you did and how to improve for your next speech. More than anything else, Toastmasters gives you the confidence to be yourself, even if you are “over-weight, greying, stubbly, short Scotsman with a wonky eye” :). Hey, character counts!

    One final thought, join my blog, “Becoming a Spotlight Presenter” at

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