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Public Speaking: The Culture Of Fear And How To Eradicate It

The mind is at its most impressionable when it is young and if we take action as early as possible then we create a generation of individuals who are confident, who are not dependent on devices to form relationships and who are able to inspire real, positive change in those around them and be able to take steps to build a better world.
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I distinctly remember, almost three years later to the day, nervously walking on stage in a VIP area of the Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre in London. My tie was off centre, my whole look somewhat dishevelled and there was a pure form of terror wracking at every fibre. I told everyone I met that my shaking hands were a result of the bitter December cold rather than the unadulterated fear that had consumed my rational being.

It was a room full of 300-400 influential, wealthy people who had made it in the world. I was an apprentice in social media, still in nappies in the professional sense who didn't have a single thing in common with these people.

I felt more out of place than I had ever felt.

I was speaking at the Huawei Winter Concert as a Young Ambassador for The Prince's Trust. It was my biggest event so far and no amount of champagne (this was, not-so-coincidentally, the same time I discovered a love for the bubbly stuff) or delicious canapes could dull the sense of impending doom I felt.

Then I started to speak.

The nerves melted away as I began to tell my story about how The Prince's Trust had helped me to turn my life around. I looked out on the audience and I had captivated all their attention. They laughed at my jokes (something that doesn't happen too often with me) and they fell silent as I moved into the depths of my speech.

Now, I felt more powerful than I had ever felt.

It was empirical of everything I said about how The Trust changed me. It seemed unthinkable that just a few minutes previously, I was finding breathing and even moving difficult due to nerves.

After my speech, I was introduced to the man who would be my future employer. My confidence and feeling of euphoria was so strong after my speech that I forgot that I'm a socially awkward, slightly nerdy individual who doesn't know how to network or hold conversations with people I don't know. That night, that very conversation, having the confidence to speak up led to the beginning of my career.

This is why I passionately feel that every young person should be taught the art of communication and more specifically, public speaking. Not as a small part of a wider English lesson; a full on, wide ranging tutorial on how to structure, prepare and deliver an effective speech or presentation and beyond that, be able to speak to and develop relationships with others.

In a world where we turn to our devices before we turn to the people who are physically with us, we need to adapt our education system to account for the fact that this epidemic of social media and smartphone addiction by making sure our kids know how to develop human relationships. This isn't a benefit and an advantage for them to have, it's crucial to create a happier, more confident society and leadership will naturally follow.

Public speaking has undoubtedly changed my life. Not just with the aforementioned career, of which I am still progressing in today but because my confidence sky rocketed before my eyes. I found that I could do things that I've never been able to do before.

I've always had a way with words. I've been a writer for as long as I can remember but I found through my experiences that with the spoken word I could move people, inspire them to take action and influence their decision making.

This isn't something we focus on in our schools though and I ask myself why this is. Verbal communication is one of the facets that defines every great leader, every successful entrepreneur, every world president and prime minister. We're pushed into presenting at school, yes, and that is important but we're not taught how to do it effectively.

There is a culture of fear when it comes to public speaking. Whenever I ask a group of people why they fear public speaking, I get usually the same answers or thereabouts: What if I mess up? I don't want to forget what I'm talking about and make a fool of myself. What if they ask me a question I can't answer? There is a common theme in every response I receive: the fear of not being enough.

A fear of public speaking is not a fear of public speaking at all. It is a fear (a very human fear) of inadequacy.

The mind is at its most impressionable when it is young and if we take action as early as possible then we create a generation of individuals who are confident, who are not dependent on devices to form relationships and who are able to inspire real, positive change in those around them and be able to take steps to build a better world.