Whenever I have casual conversations about public speaking, I’m often asked about the benefits. Why would anyone want to speak in front a big group? What if you mess up? Why bother putting yourself in such a scary situation to begin with? These are just a handful of the questions I’m asked by people looking at me as if I have two heads.
As I’ve discussed in prior posts, there are numerous benefits to being an effective speaker. But the one that cite the most to the people that feel they have no need to ever speak to groups is the effect it has on your confidence. Yes, people that speak confidently to groups tend communicate more effectively and confidently in one on one situations. But they are also able to do some pretty amazing things that they didn’t initially think they could do.
Fire walk (or broken glass walk) seminars became increasing popular throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s and are still held today. The concept was simple: you do something you thought was impossible (walking barefoot over hot coals without burning your feet off) and therefore your confidence is raised to the point where you feel that you can do anything.
These seminars come in all sorts of flavors: fire walk, walking over shards of broken glass, wood breaking, etc… and the energy in the room helps raise your emotional high to record levels. For some attendees, the effect is lasting and they find themselves having breakthroughs left and right even years after the event. For others – it, like many other memories, fades over time.
The good news is that you don’t need these expensive seminars (they can be as much as several thousand dollars to attend) to get these results. Yes, public speaking can actually do the trick — and often, all it will cost you is a little bit of your time (and on top of that, it’s a very productive and beneficial use of your time).
Like many other people, I have had my share of communication fears. Growing up, I was timid and shy and possessed the two biggest social fears: speaking to groups and meeting new people. As you can imagine, these two fears limited me in the pursuit of my goals. People with either one of these fears rarely find themselves achieving the level of success that so many of us dream of — so forget about someone who has both.
So after deciding that it was time for me to conquer my fear of public speaking once and for all, I began a journey where I experienced personal growth beyond my wildest dreams. My biggest problem was confidence — I was afraid to take risks because I didn’t want to fail. This lack of confidence affected me in all areas of my life — I wouldn’t stand up for myself and what I believed in, I wouldn’t take the initiative to seek out the help I needed and I would shy away from any social situation that made me uncomfortable.
Then I started learning about public speaking and that’s when my eyes opened. I learned that you need to prepare well and learn your subject before giving a speech — this boosted my confidence in my knowledge. I learned that when you speak to speak to groups, people feel that you are an expert on your talk. But most importantly, I learned that since I was able to become good at something I feared, that doing the impossible wasn’t unachievable. And then I caught myself becoming more assertive, speaking more confidently on the phone, communicating more effectively in one on one situations and meeting new people wasn’t a problem for me anymore.
The more I spoke, the better I felt about myself. To me, there’s no greater high than getting an audience excited about my thoughts and ideas. Seeing their smiling faces, making them laugh, overhearing them commenting to each other about how they learned something that will help them — it’s a great feeling.
So the next time you’re faced with having to give a speech and pondering whether it’ll affect your life if you skip out of it, consider what you stand to gain by giving a great presentation. Think about how you personally can gain from a confidence boost — what will you achieve?