Very Well Said
Some surveys put the fear of public speaking at the top of the list of things that scare us. It ranks even higher than death. Maybe that's because we all know we're going to die while some people hope they'll never have to speak in public!
This weekend a good friend had to. I've known "Jay" for more than 20 years. I met him a month before his oldest daughter was born. This weekend that oldest daughter got married. As the father of the bride Jay had to make a speech/toast at the reception.
He's been worried about it, really worried. I speak every day on the news..not really public speaking but sort of like it. I also host and emcee events all over the community. I've been speaking in front of groups and audiences since I was a child. It doesn't bother me and I suppose I'm lucky.
It does bother an estimated 75% of Americans. Jay is one of them. He's a smart guy, kind of quiet at times, at least he doesn't babble on like a lot of us who aren't bothered by public speaking! When he told me about his duties months ago I told him, "You'll be fine." I know him well enough to know he would be...but just telling someone that doesn't really help them!
I offered to do a better job of helping him than that.
For several weeks as Jay wrote his speech he would send me the new versions and I would suggest a few small changes here and there to make it flow a little better. The changes were small, the words were all his.
Then it was time to rehearse.
For a few weeks we would talk on the phone every few days. (He lives and works in another part of Colorado) Jay would close his office door at work, put me on speaker...and speak. He did very well right from the start in spite of his nerves and fears. One part of the speech made him really emotional and he worried about that. I told him it would be a nice, real moment on the day and that the wedding crowd would appreciate it. Still, just to get through these run-throughs Jay started to skip what we called "the hard part" ..to be re-inserted on the actual day.
In the final week the speaker phone speeches were daily. Jay was easily able to get through all six minutes with no notes. He was ready. He was also putting in lots of time practicing on his own, doing the speech in his head while he was running, or working, or basically any time he was awake! He was actually practicing out loud in front of a mirror. Everyone recommends that but no one ever really does it! Jay did it - for himself - but mostly for his daughter.
On Saturday the wedding was beautiful. His beautiful daughter was even more beautiful than usual. Then it was reception time. I saw Jay briefly as the reception was about to start. I shook his hand, congratulated him, leaned in and told him, "You've got this." Eventually it was toast time.
A couple of young members of the wedding party went first and did fine. No fear of public speaking there. I took a couple of looks at Jay across the room while they were speaking and he seemed ok...I'm sure he wasn't.
His turn came. He stood up, took the mic, walked to the front near the newlyweds and started speaking.
Jay nailed it. Rumors had circulated through some of the guests that he was nervous about this but it didn't show. Though it was memorized it sounded spontaneous and genuine. He got laughs where they were expected and even in a couple of places he didn't expect! The audience loved it.
When Jay got to the "the hard part" talking about his daughter , and in this case, to his daughter and in front of all of us...well, it was pretty cool. Everyone was moved..even me, though I'd heard everything many times before! Jay did choke up a little, did have some trouble getting through it, but it was real, it was genuine and it was perfect.
I was pleased for a wonderful family on a wonderful day...and especially for Jay. He worked very hard to overcome a very real fear. The work paid off.
If you're one of the 75% with this fear...you can do it with some work. Maybe try to get a little coaching from someone who does it all the time.
For the rest of the reception Jay was probably the third happiest person in the room, after the bride and groom. His happiness included a huge dose of relief now that his terrifying turn in the spotlight was over....for now.
Jay has one more daughter.
We'll talk again soon.
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