This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

January 20, 2005 - Public Speaking

I can still remember it. I was a sophomore in high school, and had to give a talk for my Civics class. It was agonizing: would I be called on that day, or the next? Part of me desperately wanted to put it off. Part of me just wanted it to be OVER.

Like thousands upon thousands of people, I was absolutely terrified of public speaking.

In retrospect, it's hard to remember why. Well, I do remember this. One day, one of my fellow students was giving his talk and gave a little snort. A large wad of green snot landed right in the middle of his white shirt. Fortunately, he had a handkerchief with him, and rather nonchalantly dabbed himself clean.

If it had been me, I would have died. Right on the spot. I don't carry a handkerchief. I would have had to move to another state. If I did survive, I would have to live and relive that awful moment for the rest of my life.

But that's the trap, isn't it? Behind the fear of public speaking is the fear of humiliation, of somehow being the recipient of mass scorn, contempt, or rejection.

As it happens, I no longer have that fear. Mainly, I suppose, that's because in college I was part of a traveling troupe of poets and musicians. Somehow, once the ground rules were changed from Dread Duty, to an Act of Irreverence, public speaking got to be a lot of fun.

To my surprise, that fear reared again some years later, when I had to sing and dance as part of a play. It almost magically disappeared one day when another actor asked me just what is was that I was afraid of. I couldn't answer.

Even if I totally bombed -- and I'd seen other actors do that, even very good actors -- I'd still wake up the next morning.

At some point in your life you have to decide: are you going to be a prisoner of your fear of failure, or an explorer of the possibility of joy?

Guess which one has a better time.

But there is another way to overcome a fear of public speaking: read up on it, talk about it, attend a class, join the Toastmasters, keep putting yourself in a position where you have to get used to it.

Maybe you're one of the people whose insides turn to jelly when you have to stand up in front of others. If so, you might be interested in an upcoming session at the Philip S. Miller Library's Castle Rock Bank Meeting Room.

On Saturday, January 22, from 10 a.m. to noon, Tom Fanning will give a presentation called "Beyond Speaking." This interactive lecture will talk about some of the common issues faced by public speakers. He'll talk about strategies for overcoming your anxiety, and how to move on to both effectiveness and real pleasure.

Tom has been an executive coach, business process consultant, motivational speaker, and more. This introductory talk is free.

So come on down. What are you afraid of?

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