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Reducing Fear of Public Speaking

May 2, 2010

Fear of Public Speaking

For some reason, many people have a fear of public speaking. Some dread as death itself! Gottlieb writes a good article about the role of public speaking in the classroom. As a new teacher, she faced problems communicating with her audience, the students.

And I was so nervous I couldn’t talk – not a word. My voice shook and my hands shook and I was barely able to apologize. I was paralyzed. After about 5 minutes, they let me leave. Still to this day, I am embarrassed when I think about it. A group of 5 women sitting around a table, a topic I knew inside and out, and I was struck dumb. (Gottlieb, 2004)

How can this fear be taken away? Gottlieb suggests that she overcame her fear by refocusing your attention from oneself towards the audience.

The Difference Between Teaching and Public Speaking
Here’s what I realized. When I was afraid to do Public Speaking, the fear was all about ME. What if I choke, what if I mess up, what if I don’t remember. Me me me.
But when I was teaching, it wasn’t about me at all. It was about the students (i.e. the audience) and the content. (Gottlieb, 2004)

Gottlieb has an excellent perspective. The late freedom fighter Mohandas Gandhi once said something that is reminiscent of this attitude. It seems to me that Gottlieb found herself and her voice in the service of her students.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. – Mohandas Ghandhi (1869-1948)

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