From fearful student to confident speaker

Last Monday I found myself in the BBC Radio Nottingham studio on the breakfast show reviewing the papers live at 8.25am. I had arrived at 7.45am, was given a nice cup of tea and spent 40 minutes going through the papers to find 3 stories to discuss with the radio presenter. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and even got a bit of a buzz from it.

What really fascinates me is that when I was younger this is something I would have been too scared to do and would have avoided at all costs. So what changed over my lifetime to allow me to enjoy this pressured situation and others I face regularly?

As you know I specialise in the mind and how it works. I’m fascinated how we can control so much in our lives by managing our minds and the way we react to certain situations. We have the power to choose how we respond to every situation we face even if that means we have to work on certain techniques to enable us to do this.

When I was 18 years of age I went to Leicester Teacher Training College to study to become a teacher in Maths and PE. In my first year I vividly remember a scenario which will never leave me and anchored some very negative emotions to speaking in public.

To set the scene it was a small room big enough for a round table to seat 6 people and a window overlooking a grassy area of the campus. I am sat next to Professor Brown and I have been given the responsibility of introducing him to the 4 other students sat round the table before he commenced his lecture. A very simple thing to do,,,,,,,,, but for me it became the most stressful event I had encountered to that point in my life.

The few hours leading up to that event had been very difficult for me as I had been informed a few hours earlier that I would be introducing professor Brown to the other students. For some reason I panicked and a mass of negative emotions hit me and I felt the knot in my stomach, the sweaty palms, the heart beating faster and a noise in my head which I couldn’t understand. I tried everything I could think of to calm down but I couldn’t. What was strange to me was that I could play basketball confidently in front of crowds of thousands yet I couldn’t say the words ‘please welcome Professor Brown’ to 4 students!

The student’s eyes were on me and they waited for me to speak. I froze – the words wouldn’t come out. I tried to concentrate but they were all staring at me and the pressure grew. After what seemed like hours I turned around to avoid their gaze and stared out of the window overlooking the green grass and sunshine – there was no happy ending………I bottled it! As the silence filled the room Professor Brown introduced himself and carried on.

That moment scarred me for life and from that moment on I found it very difficult to speak to more than one person so teaching was going to be a problem. I had extra coaching to help me stand in front of the children and teach. My voice projection was very poor and I had voice coaching to improve that. Like it or not I was in this situation and I had a whole life to live with this problem.

Yet now – with two techniques I was taught (and now teach) – I am able to confidently speak to audiences of hundreds and enjoy the experience. The Radio Nottingham newspaper review is my second one and I have been booked again for October as they like the stories I pick and the confidence I demonstrate in the studio. Thank goodness for the power of the mind and our ability to control it.

Next week I will let you know of a time I have identified in my school days which I believe started the insecurities which I struggled with for so many years and how I used that knowledge to break the hold of this negativity and turn it into a positive driving force.


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