My friend is charming, good-looking and very composed (yes, all very annoying, and it has been from a young age when all our mums loved him).
I thought he’s be perfect to chair the first Speaking Out event back in February when I was still resolutely refusing to do it myself, as he’s very friendly and puts people at their ease.
So, I wrote him the following email:
“I need someone who is friendly, good at speaking in public, able to take questions from an audience, good at operating laptops, and likes chairing events. So, obviously, I thought of you! (apart from the chairing event thing as I don’t know if you ever do that, but I imagine you’d be bloody good at it.)”
He responded to my request with this:
“To be honest public speaking still brings me out in a cold sweat – I’m slowly getting used to it but certainly not the person to be giving lessons. I wish! Sorry 😦 ”
I was very surprised. He is one of the most self-assured people that I know. I met up with him and another friend yesterday for a drink.
He’s told me that he’s doing a talk in America in the summer in front of 200 people which lasts a whole hour. “I’m really not looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s not so bad because it’s with students and it’s in LA so they’ll like my English accent.”
Now, I have no idea whether the audience will like him better because of his English accent, or if he’s just scrabbling around for reasons to make himself feel better, but it reminded me of the episode from Friends when Ross gets really nervous delivering his first lecture and speaks with a (bad) English accent.
My other friend suggested that he make the talk more interactive, and ask questions or perhaps do a quiz. I suggested perhaps less helpfully with regards to improving confidence with public speaking, that he play a long film clip to eat up some of the vast 60 minutes chasm.
But I must say that if someone who has won over all mothers with his confidence and charm, manages to get nervous when speaking in public, then there’s hope for us all.
It means that nerves around public speaking are very common and affect even the people who look totally assured. Don’t assume it’s just you.