Overcoming the fear of public speaking

None of us are immune to the fear of public speaking. Yet we can deal with our fear only by daring to confront it — by staring at it straight in the eyes. Only then, when you step out of your comfort zone, does the magic begin!

With great enthusiasm, several months ago, in collaboration with my partner, we founded a Public Speaking Club in Tel Aviv, the first local club of its kind. The initiative occurred to me after being inspired by a ToastMasters Club meeting I attended in Los Angeles. It was then I realized and began to appreciate the enormous value improving public speaking skills held for building both personal and professional confidence.

The distinctiveness is its engaging and natural approach. No time to think, no room for fear. Jump into the deep water and improvise! To kick off, the participants begin their adventure by drawing a random topic from a hat. Then, they are provided with a minute of time in order to prepare a two-minute speech. Some examples of these topics include: Which bill of law would you promote as an MK?; What is your definition of success?; How can we solve conflict in our country?; How can we diminish gender inequality?; etc.

Five of the participants serve as evaluators, in charge of: body language, content, structure, “non-words” and we even have our ‘chief of time’. In order to improve, one has to learn how to preserve their strength and which of your weaknesses to focus on overcoming. In addition to the learning, it is also an entertaining experience, in which everyone has the potential to learn from the other. This cultivates mutual support between the participants, which is a key factor in building confidence to master the skill.

So, if you feel that you would like to learn public speaking and are brave enough to confront what is arguably the greatest fear of humanity, the fear of public speaking, drop me a line and I’ll reserve a seat at my workshop at Limmud TLV, a festival of Jewish and Israeli culture, promoting creativity and learning which will take place on May 15, 2015. You will have the opportunity to become a brighter public speaker and spice up your confidence.

Were you a rebellious student at school who opposed studying topics that you were obliged to? If so, I am convinced that you will find Limmud TLV a liberating experience. So what is so special and innovating about it? I welcome you to a world where everyone is encouraged to share their knowledge with one another — teachers are students and students are teachers. You can be Alice in Wonderland by creating your own learning adventure. The atmosphere cultivates open discussion of ideas and opinions without prejudice or bias, and all are welcome to participate and explore this world.

If you are thirsty to share and develop your opinions behind your Facebook wall, you have an “open-mic” stage. And, in particular, at this public speaking session you could bring up topics such as: identity, technology, business, history, music, art, culture, philosophy and religion.

Bear in mind that developing public speaking skills is like building up a muscle — you need to find the right gym to train it, and be persistent. You can read the captivating, well-known book by Dale Carnegie on the topic, “Public Speaking for Success,” but, clearly, there is no substitute for your own interactive experience in front of a live audience.

At this workshop, you can learn how to master this art. You will be provided with the tools to reveal the enigma behind how to inspire your audience, and how to captivate their attention. You will remember to make an eye contact, be more aware to your body language and to non-words (am, ah, actually, to state a few). In addition, you will learn how to plan the structure for your speech, and most importantly, you will learn how to motivate your audience to take action.

Gradually, you will take note of the mystifying skills which often develop as part of learning this skill: you may sharpen your mind, your confidence can reach a new peak, your assertiveness will become bolder, and the spark in your eyes is brighter.

Even during biblical times, Moses needed to do public speaking before Pharaoh despite his speech impediment. So cheer up — you are not alone! The fear of public speaking is as old as the burning bush!

The author is a former spokesperson at the Knesset and an expert in Public speaking and public diplomacy. She will be presenting this topic at Limmud TLV on 14-15 May.

About the Author
Marina Smolyanov is passionate about improving Israel's public diplomacy. She worked in the field in Washington DC and in Madrid, and also served as a political advisor at the Knesset. She specializes in teaching the art of public speaking through improvisational speeches - a unique model that she has recently developed.
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