Public speaking strikes fear into the hearts of many, myself included. I don't remember having this fear all of my life, although maybe I have. It has become fairly acute in the last few years, but that could be because I'm doing more public speaking.
I volunteer with an organization that encourages 4th to 6th graders to overcome the obstacles in their life by setting goals and having a "never give up" attitude. Since I've started volunteering, I have had to do several public speaking events. The smallest was a group of about 50 adults that work for one of our corporate sponsors. The largest was almost 2000 kids at an assembly. Both times my hands shook, my voice cracked, and I was pretty much a basket case until the event was over.
My fear is kind of strange, considering I speak on the PA to the passengers all of the time. I realized why that doesn't bother me last week. For one thing, everyone knows passengers hardly ever pay attention to anything said over the loud speaker. That could be because everything said over the PA sounds like the teacher from "Peanuts". I also realized that I'm not afraid of speaking on the airplane because of a little thing called the cockpit door.
We were sitting at the gate last week, and I was trying to make a joke to the passengers on the PA. Normally the cockpit door is closed, or even if it isn't I just look straight ahead out of the window and speak. This time, I decided to turn around and make eye contact while I delivered the punch line. As soon as I saw all the passengers leaning out in the aisle looking at me, my voice started shaking uncontrollably. Even after I turned around and looked out the front again I couldn't get it to stop. I hoped it just sounded like static and a bad speaker, but I doubt it. How embarrassing.
I've started reading a new book, "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. It is a twelve week course designed to help artists recover their creativity. It helps the artist deal with limiting beliefs, self-sabotage, fear, jealousy and anything else that might inhibit the creative process. I started reading it because I thought it might be helpful for writing the blog. As I was working through the exercises, an amazing thing happened. I found what I consider to be the root of my public speaking problem. I won't bore you with the details, but it all stems back to a college communications class and a misunderstanding with my teacher.
I've learned a lot from this book already, and I'm still on week one. I don't expect it to turn me into John Grisham, but it will be interesting to see if the blog is any better 12 weeks from now. I'm really interested to see if this helps me with my public speaking, and it won't take me long to find out. I'm speaking to another humongous group of kids in May. Maybe I can get through it this time without my voice cracking.