We all have phobias, things that we just can’t get over. For some people, fear of public speaking is one of them. It is not of mine. In fact, Public Speaking is one of my strenghts. I love standing in front of groups of people, talking. I was trying to think the other day about how that started because I was incredibly shy as a kid. There’s only one instance that I remember in which I completely blanked out in front of an audience.
Photo from Clear Speech Works
Back when I was in primary school, there was a radio show called “Tonton Takassi”, which basically toured different schools and recorded students reciting poems, performing sketches and singing. The show was broadcast every Saturday morning and none of the kids that I knew missed it, when the theme song came on. That year, our school was picked to be featured and the announcement was made in all the classes for people to sign up. I must have been either in 3rd or 4th grade that year. Because people who signed up were allowed to miss class, I decided to sign up the day that the show producers were coming to our school. I quickly opened our grammar book and picked a poem at random and memorized it. When they came to our class to collect the kids who signed up, I promptly walked out with all the other students.
Since, i had just picked a poem that I’ve never seen, I was rehearsing it over and over in my head as we were walking to where all the other kids were sitting. The producers wanted to do a run-through before they started recording, so they rolled up a piece of paper and told us to pretend it’s a microphone. As the other kids went to the microphone one by one to recite their poems or to sing, I kept rehearsing my poem, making sure that I remember where to pause and where to speed it up. I was excited to be out of class, excited to be in a show that I’d been listening to for years, so excited in fact that I blanked out. I took the piece of paper and everything I learned went out from my head. I couldn’t even remember my name. I stood there, in front of the producers, in front of my teachers, in front of over 100 kids and I couldn’t talk. One of the teachers finally took the “microphone” away from me and told me to go sit down. I was both mortified, sad and angry at myself.
An experience like that is enough to make someone despise public speaking. I, somehow got over it and got to enjoy speaking in front of people more as I grew up, and as I got more opportunities to present to groups, whether in class or to people older than me.
It made me wonder how our perceived weaknesses sometimes become our strenghts and what environmental factors make that switch possible. I wonder if this is possible and true for everyone.