Sunday, September 13, 2009

Overcoming My Fear of Public Speaking

When I was in school I was extremely shy, so whenever I had to do a presentation in front of the class, I nearly had a panic attack. I truly didn’t overcome my fear until I started working at IRS. The higher up the ranks, I’ve gone training other employees became one of my many duties. One-on-one training was fine, but I avoided classroom training like a guy with bad breath hides from Altoids until Dorothy, my manager at the time, forced me to do it. After a day or two of crying, begging, and a little bribing to get out of teaching, with no success of course, I finally gave in.

On the day first day of the four day class, I had all of handouts ready, the training books were on the tables, and I had a speech (of sorts) that I was going to use to introduce the class. I greeted everyone as they came into the room and exchanged ideal chit chat with those that I worked closely with. Everyone was all smiles and seemed happy to be there, including me, until I got to the front of the classroom.

When I addressed the group of 20, the voice trembling began. I asked a number of the students to read the material because I was practically speechless. As we went through the lesson, every question that I was asked, though I knew the answer, it was extremely hard for me help the class understand. The negative body language that I observed warned me to let the explanations go before I lost all of my creditability. Instead, I wrote down the questions and told the class that I would get back with them by the end of the day or the beginning of the next day at the latest.

At the end of the day, one of the people in my class called me over to them and said, “You did a good job for your first time. You’ll do better tomorrow,” then she handed me a sheet of paper. After reading the note Ms. Barbara handed me, I hugged her and quickly let the room.

That night I read over Ms Barbara’s note again, did some class instructional research on the internet, and prayed for confidence.

The next day, I had the answers to all of the questions from the day before typed up so I handed them out. As we went over the questions, I pretended that I was only addressing each person that had asked a question. My prayer kicked in when I began speaking freely to everyone like I had the first day when I greeted everyone as they came in.

Ms. Barbara’s note had helped me realize that talking to the entire group was really not much different than speaking to each person individually. After that training session, I have taught quite a few classes and have significantly improved with each one.