Public Speaking… and fear?

“Always do what you are afraid to do”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Microphone Clip Art

I wanted to share a thought or two today as I reflected on my first time public speaking. I was honored with the gift of representing one of the writing groups I participate and mentor in, the Veterans Writing Group in Salt Lake City Utah. I was scheduled to speak about half way through the reading and unveiling of the Community Writing Center’s annual Anthology and I was starting to feel afraid. This year the title was “For Everything a Season” an awesome choice and chosen from the first poem in the book a masterful and beautifully expressed sentiment by a local author and poet Ked Kirkham .

The preface was written and read by Shauna Edson the coordinator of the Diverse Writing Series. In the preface she speaks of her first experience reading one of her stories with a local writing group. Her description of the feeling she had painted such a picture that I could feel her voice and the energy behind her emotions and her fear as she wrote it. She was reading in front of a writing group of six or seven members a story of heartfelt and a deeply personal discovery in her life from her childhood. She describes the first moment as she started to read aloud the first time in a public situation. “My hands shook and I felt like no words would come out as I read the first line out loud. My voice so soft the writers had to lean in to hear what I was saying. As I read my voice became louder, my pulse slowed to a somewhat normal pace and my story came alive.”

I wondered as I listened to her speak in front of the hundred or so people in attendance how she felt at that moment. I was about to speak in front of an audience for the second time in my life. The first time was reading a couple of poems in an art competition in a group of Veterans people I knew and were friends and was still nervous. I am still not sure how well I did yet it was a great gift to have had the experience. I had been raised to be modest and was a little shy, yet can talk and move people when I speak. I watched her with the greatest of respect and admiration for her courage knowing my turn would soon be here.

The first few writers were also members of Toast Masters International, a public speaking group, this year in fact there were several members and most of the writers were quite used to speaking publicly either in their churches or in other capacities as in teaching or coaching. The year before it seemed all the writers that read were doing so for the first time I had come feeling that this time I would be in a great group and a room full of first time speakers. I was in for both a treat and a shock as I watched and listened to the first seven or so writers. I began to get a little nervous, I was the only one in the group of writers that did not have a story published in the Anthology and had thought that would be to my advantage. Yet the people speaking were amazingly talented and well versed in the art of public speaking.

My turn arrived and as I walked towards the microphone the thoughts and feelings running through my person were amazing, I thought about Shauna Edson, as my hands began to shake. I smiled and adjusted the microphone and did what I do best I opened my mouth and expressed myself. I read two poems after I expressed my gratitude at being there with such a wonderful and diverse group of writers and speakers. The poems I read were of two of my favorite things smiles and hugs, the writing group asked me to read the poem about hugs and share a little of the story behind it. I shared it on my blog and was comfortable speaking about two things I so enjoyed. I wondered as I finished and walked away how I must have looked and sounded as I spoke trying my best to conceal my nervousness.

It wouldn’t be long before I found out and was given many compliments and smiles after the reading at the reception. I was even given the greatest compliment by the president of one of the local toastmasters groups as he said” You have a great presence as you walked right up there like a CEO of a Major corporation and used that radio voice you brought life to a hug and as smile”. I was invited to attend their meetings and to share a story on a local radio show along with the other members of the writing group.

I wondered as I sat drinking my coffee this morning was I afraid to speak publicly or was I just nervous… Perhaps a little of both yet I was inspired to do my best as I watched a lady who inspired me with her courage and her heart as she shared her story of the first time she spoke publicly… Thank you Shauna!


I want to thank you for allowing me to share a thought or two and for sharing your smiles and your love in our world making it a better place for all we share it with.. Thank you for being the positive change our world so needs… πŸ™‚


15 thoughts on “Public Speaking… and fear?

  1. I suggest that, “Always do what you are afraid to do” is dangerous, but, perhaps, incomplete, advice: The unqualified ‘Always” is patently incorrect.

    • Yes always is a little unqualified.. some things are better left undone… πŸ™‚ Thank you Ian I am grateful for your kind comments and your wisdom shared.. πŸ™‚

  2. I am glad it went well. I have spoken in front of 20,000 once and in front of thousands on multiple occasions. My anxiety leading up to it each time was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

    • I appreciate you sharing the kind compliment and the insight, I do hope to speak to many as I move forward in my life and live my dreams. I am honored you chose to share your thoughts they are inspirational, I am sure speaking in front of a large group must be exhilarating and quite a gift to have the opportunity to do so. I wonder if we ever truly get comfortable in doing so? Have you found that the more you do so the easier it becomes to feel less terrified, I hope the exhilaration doesn’t subside.. πŸ™‚ It feels good to share in such a way. At least for me, I am grateful and appreciate you sharing with me your thoughts and the smiles they bring! πŸ™‚ Thank you again

  3. Thank you Carrie, you always bring such a beautiful smile with your kind words and comments. I am grateful you take the time to share that kindness and take the time to read and share your thoughts on my posts! πŸ™‚ The smiles the sentiment and you fill my heart in such a beautiful way, thank you! πŸ™‚ I am grateful and humbled you choose to do so.

    • Thank you for the wonderful comment and sentiment you express, I appreciate you taking the time to read the post and share the kind words you share as well as the smiles they bring:)

  4. Joe this was my biggest fear…Public Speaking. My first time at Toastmasters I was asked to speak for 2-3 mins and I remember they said I had 18 Ah’s. I didn’t want to go back, but I eventually I did and as you stated in your post…we must do that which we are afraid to do! I’m currently a speaker and a professor but is doing what I was afraid to do build my confidence level up.

    • Thank you Richard, I hope I can do as well as you have in overcoming and being me confidently! I appreciate your sharing such a genuine sentiment and being so supportive! I am truly grateful and honored you choose to do so, I admire your kind heart and that you share with so many in such a kind way. πŸ™‚

  5. I cannot do it, some poets always wanted me to read poetry and do not do it, glad you had the courage to do it, good for you.

  6. Joe, thank you for sharing your experience here.. As a retired public speaker myself ( My Spiritual services which I would deliver an address) I know how the nerves can kick in.. My own experience has just been to trust and once I begin I get lost in the subject..
    The feeling of elations afterwards for helping others and seeing the sea of faces nod in recognition to your subject is more than a satisfying reward..

    I hope this is just the beginning of many such talks and your fears will grow less and less. πŸ™‚

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