Biggest fear next to death – public speaking?


By Vishnu Dason Nair

Has there ever been a time when you have been asked to give a speech at your best friend’s wedding or give a presentation on behalf of your company?

There would have been a rollercoaster of emotions, reaching down to the pit of your stomach, when that request came.

Have you experienced cold sweat, with hairs at the back of your neck standing, weak knees, dry mouth, dizziness or even felt violently sick in the stomach, feeling like you want to throw up?

Don’t worry, you need not visit the doctor. You are probably one of the many who have a fear of public speaking.

Many have said that the only fate worse than public speaking is death itself.

How many times have you seen an awesome speaker like Tony Robbins, Robin Sharma, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, to name a few, and wished you could speak like them?

What about our own politicians, Dr Mahathir Mohamad or Anwar Ibrahim? You may like or dislike them, but they know how to inspire the masses, stir up their emotions and tell them what they want to hear.

Delivering a good speech is like having a fine meal. First comes the introduction, it is like a starter to whet your appetite or a teaser for what lies ahead.

This is followed by the “body” but when you put that word in the context of food… hmm doesn’t sound appetising at all.

No disrespect to vegetarians, but the “meat” is in the “main course”. That’s where the juicy and succulent bits of information tickle the senses of the audience.

The flow is like the arrangement on the plate, pleasing to the eye. Likewise, the speaker. He should appeal to the audience with points, examples, opinions. His speech should preferably be peppered with jokes, anecdotes and real life experiences.

A good speaker is the person who tells the best story. It’s like when you are reading a bedtime story to your child. You bring its characters to life, with the tone, expressions and even body language. A good speech is not only vocal, but visually appealing.

A good meal, it is said, should tickle the five senses of taste, smell, sight, feel and sound. But in a speech, is it possible to invoke all these five senses? Probably, it is a possibility in the future. A hundred years ago, the writings of Jules Verne were considered science fiction but today some of them are science reality.

Finally, the meal ends with dessert, a culmination of the meal. It leaves you satisfied and looking forward to the next culinary experience.

In a speech, it’s the ending. It customarily concludes with parting advice, call for action or a memorable experience. If you have made an impression, then you have left a mark.

So, to be a good public speaker, do you think it must be a natural-born talent or a god-given gift? That is a myth. Anyone can be a great public speaker with the correct coach or trainer. Public speakers are not made overnight but slowly moulded and polished.

Vishnu Dason Nair is a corporate trainer with Amalan EQ Training and Development PLT and has more than 20 years of media and corporate experience. Contact:[email protected]