It all started with tears – a meltdown by Niki’s young child that led to temporary chaos, a forgotten briefcase, and a forced last-minute change to the regularly scheduled programming. The result was that Niki showed up to this week’s meeting without her prepared Table Topics questions.
Sometimes mishaps are meant to be. Because what Niki deployed as a backup was one simple question that spoke to everyone. The question was this:
“Why are you here?”
It was a question with more layers than Mom’s lasagna. In invited beetle-browed, existential pondering, or just basic factual accounting.
The cool thing was, as much scope as there was for a wide variety of answers, a common theme emerged. Essentially, everybody who shuffled to the lectern to tackle it said this:
I’m here because I realized my fear of public speaking is preventing me from doing what I want to do in life.
A few years ago, Nick was asked to emcee a friend’s wedding. He had a full year to prepare – which is to say, a full year to marinate in his own fear. “It was the worst year of my life. I allowed it to be the worst year of my life,” he said. But Nick didn’t want to be the kind of person who is incapacitated by anxiety over something that’s really not so scary once you face it, and wrestle it to ground by practicing and practicing. That’s why he’s here.
Adam works in sales. His fear of speaking in front of groups is, he reckoned, a potential career-derailer, because customers can smell fear, and it doesn’t inspire them to open their wallets. Fear prevents a salesman’s message — anybody’s message — from coming from the heart. That’s why he’s here.
Joline just got accepted into pre-med at UBC. She is very shy. To her credit, she realized that great marks will only take her so far. Medicine is a helping profession; it is partly about connection and communicating. If you can’t speak up during Grand Rounds, you’re going to crash out of med school, simple as that. That’s why she’s here.
Fear of public speaking holds so many of us back from being who we need to be. Yet the fix is so simple. Come to Toastmasters – if not this club, then some club at least, one that fits and feels right. Seize every opportunity for “stage time” in this safe, supportive setting.
This is how the dragon is slayed. This is how you live the life you want.