Winning the Procrastination Game

            How often have you thought to yourself, "I'd really like to be a better speaker"?

            Cynthia, an accountant, hates to go to networking events because when she has to introduce herself, she's chagrined at the nervousness that overwhelms her. It's not her competence that's in question. She's a very good accountant, has no problem with tax returns, profit & loss statements, budgets or anything else financial. But when she has to tell potential clients just how good she really is and why they should work with her, she freezes. It's hard to remember her own name.

            Cynthia would really like to get over this nervousness. She sees other people speaking easily in front of the group, and wonders why the thought of getting up and giving a speech ties her in knots. Her business limps along while she dreams of being more successful and providing the good life for herself and her family. For several years now she's been thinking about it... and thinking about it... and thinking about it. But when it comes to actually doing something to overcome her fears, she procrastinates.

             Cynthia is an expert at playing the procrastination game.

            She's not alone.

            People fear public speaking for a whole slew of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with actually making a speech. It could, of course, come from an unpleasant experience, often years ago, say when you were a kid in school and gave a report you thought was brilliant but the whole class laughed at you. Or maybe you forgot your speech in the middle at your 16th birthday or high school graduation or some other important occasion when you wanted to be perfect.

            Maybe it's not a particular event that has robbed you of your confidence. Many people grew up in a family where they were constantly compared to a sibling who was more accomplished and they suffered by comparison. "Why can't you be like your older brother/sister?" is an insidious criticism that eats away at our self-worth. Some people acquire a deep-seated feeling that whatever they say or do will never be important or good enough, and nobody will ever listen to them. They fear they won't be heard.

            Sometimes it's just the fear of doing something you've never done before. Maybe stepping out of your comfort zone to make a speech is too painful to think about. Not knowing in advance if you'll succeed or make a fool of yourself stops some people cold. Even though you plan, you prepare, you rehearse, taking that leap off the cliff and actually giving the speech is way too scary. So you continue to procrastinate because that feels safe.

            Here's the truth. Refusing to speak in public robs you of the joy of knowing that you do have something to say and people want to hear it. You have a gift to give, valuable knowledge to offer, and people want to listen and learn from you. You're unique and your own special perspective is your gift to the world.

           Give yourself the gift of overcoming your fears. Join Toastmasters, work with a speaker's coach (like me), read some of the many books on how to be a better public speaker (like mine), practice with a recorder, get a friend to listen and give you gentle feedback.

            You'll be amazed, once you start speaking in public, how many people will admire you, think your gift is valuable and will thank you for it.

            Give yourself a break! Stop playing the procrastination game. Grab hold of the joy of sharing your gift with the world. Make up your mind that now is the time and you can do it. Because you can!