This may be hard to believe, but I suffered from shyness when I was young. The idea of speaking in front of a group of people or meeting strangers was just plain scary to me. So much so, I refused to sit on Santa’s lap at the department store during the holidays. When I was a kid, my father would love to give tours of our house and introduce my brother and myself to guests while we were relaxing in the back of the house (which we thought was a safe haven; it wasn’t). My father did this so many times that we eventually took to hiding in closets when we heard him coming down the hall on one of his many tours. It always baffled him why he couldn’t find us. I can still hear him say, “And here are my sons who are…Gee, where did they go? They were here just a minute ago…”

I’m sure there are a lot of people who suffer from this affliction. It wasn’t until I was a freshman in college when I was able to overcome it. At the time, I took a basic speech class where students were asked to give talks on a variety of subjects. At first, the speeches were no longer than three minutes, which seemed like an eternity to me. They were then stretched out to five minutes, and then ten minutes. I eventually caught on and did a capable job. Since then, I’ve gone on to do all kinds of lectures and training classes, some lasting several days.

As for me, I overcame my fear when I decided I wasn’t going to be intimidated by people anymore. I learned that stage fright was an acknowledgment the audience is better or smarter than yourself, which I discovered was simply not so. If I prepared my speech properly and knew my subject matter I realized I was in the driver’s seat and not the audience. This was the confidence boost I needed. Since then, I always prepared myself accordingly, was incredibly organized, and embarked on my lectures with a little swagger. That college speech class may have seemed trivial to some people, but it worked wonders for me.

In the past, you have heard me discuss how I believe technology is having an adverse effect on our socialization skills. I still believe it but fear it is getting worse. I am finding many of the young people coming out of college tend to be very introverted. They may be a whizz at text messaging and talking on cell phones, but they are at a loss as to how to effectively communicate face-to-face. I think this is because there is not enough emphasis in school on sharpening their speaking skills.

In order to complete our college speech class we were asked to give a five minute talk on a soap box at the main college gate while other students passed by on their way to class. The subject could be anything. As it was nearing election time, I made some unflattering remarks about our incumbent governor (are you surprised?). Regardless, it was a positive experience for me and frankly, I don’t know why High Schools and Middle Schools don’t do likewise, maybe even Elementary Schools as well. It sure would help overcome stage fright and improve the speaking skills of our youth. I can tell you authoritatively, we need more people who can articulate a sentence, motivate people, and educate others than we need people who can text message faster than the speed of light.

As a manager, the last thing I would want to say to a visitor in my department is, “And here is my staff who are…Gee, where did they go? They were just here a minute ago…”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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