A key factor of personal development and growth for any of us is overcoming our fears. For me 2012 was a year of breaking down barriers and ended with me finally overcoming my fear of speaking in public, something that used to terrify me.
In fact, the thought of public speaking is something that sends a chill down the spine of even the most confident individual. In his book ‘…and Death Came Third!: The Definitive Guide to Networking and Speaking in Public’ Andy Lopata refers to a New York Times Survey on Social Anxiety that listed people’s biggest fears. Perhaps surprisingly, ahead of the fear of death in third place and walking into a room full of strangers on second place came speaking in public.
I, like so many others, can remember anxious, sleepless nights before having to give presentations in front of my high school peers. The fear of making a fool of myself was overwhelming. At university I decided to confront the problem and signed up for a public speaking class. I gradually became more confident and must have appeared more at ease than I felt as I achieved the top grade in the subject and walked away with the award for most creative presentation.
It was a few months ago that I was approached by Quach Tuan Khanh, widely recognised as Vietnam’s top public speaker. He asked if I would be interested in joining him as a key speaker at the Big Show, the largest public speaking event in Vietnam last year. Although the idea was daunting, and I had arranged to spend Christmas with my family in Sweden, I knew the chance was just too big to turn down. I cancelled my travel plans and started researching topics I felt qualified to present. Together Quach Tuan Khanh and I decided my subject should be ‘Failure Before Success’. I am no stranger to adversity and I have had my fair share of failures. However, I have always tried to rise above them, learn from them, and turn those failures into success.
During my time with Oriflame and Sophie Paris Vietnam I have delivered hundreds of talks, training seminars and lectures; the largest of which was in a stadium filled with 3,000 people. However, I was now being asked to speak for one-and-a-half hours in front of business professionals. Each was paying US$60 to come and hear what I had to say, a significant portion of their monthly income. This was serious and I knew I would have to prepare and practice thoroughly if I was going to pull it off.
Throughout December I toured Vietnam with a number of well known public speakers addressing some 1,700 business professionals in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Can Tho.
It was after my final major presentation to a crowd of 800 in HCMC that I realised I was facing my fear of speaking to large numbers of strangers and winning. Following my talk I was thrilled to be asked to pose for photos with members of the audience and sign autographs. I was even asked to sign books. Many of the people I met on the tour were moved to tears and thanked me for inspiring them. The feeling was incredible and I have had endless emails, phone calls and texts since. I cannot describe how proud I feel to have been an inspiration to others or how thankful I am not to have let my fear of public speaking beat me. I am looking forward to more presentations and to further inspire and help other people overcoming their fears. As Brian Tracy puts it “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help other. Unsuccessful people are always asking. What’s in it for me”.