Strange as it may sound for someone who is seen as being shy, I light up at the podium. I would feel like a kid at Disneyland to be front and center speaking about a subject that is on my list of favorites. I am bewildered that public speaking is a popular fear. I have a long list of fears but public speaking isn’t on it.
I once attended a work-related course on public speaking. After giving my one-minute speech, the teacher and my fellow classmates applauded my delivery. The instructor asked me how I liked it up there. I remember saying simply, “I love it up there.”
Now I seldom have the opportunity to stand at the podium and deliver my thoughts. The last time I was at the podium was over three years ago. So obviously my times up at the podium are few and far between. That’s okay since I only said I love it up there. I didn’t say I wanted to be a “frequent podium player”.
The podium is an outlet for my thoughts. My thoughts do collect over time and it is good to have an opportunity to unload at the podium. If I have the opportunity to talk about a subject that I know plenty about, it wouldn’t matter if there were 9 or 99 in the audience.
Although I am strong at the podium, I am weak at the discussion table. In a group setting, I go into “silent” mode. There’s a difference between a group setting and the podium. When I’m invited to speak in front of a group, I have the floor. I don’t have to fight for it. In a group, it’s a different ballgame. One has to speak up or raise their hand to have the floor. There’s not just the fear of speaking up, but the intimidating possibility of being interrupted, questioned, or debated. Any of those prospects would throw me a curve.
At the podium, I get to talk and the extroverts have to listen to me for a change. Now I am not at war with extroverts. Not at all! In fact, I learned a lot growing up in school thanks to them. The extroverts were the ones who asked the teacher the questions I was too afraid to ask.
I will never forget the speech I gave at a farewell reception for myself. I gave it my best shot and it went better than I expected. I had the audience laughing at just the right moments. And when I sprinkled in some sentiment, a few teared up. After the reception, I was given what I believe is the best compliment a public speaker could receive. The person said, “I didn’t want you to sit down”. Truth is, I didn’t either.