Of course you are, it’s in your genes
Scott Berkun noted that fear of public speaking is hardwired in us; our ancestors were frightened and reacted quickly when they were exposed on a flat plain, surrounded by creatures staring at them. We can assume that none of our ancestors wondered if the pride of lions was curious or hungry – and waited to find out. We wouldn’t be here if they had. Their fear drove them to leap into a tree or to run and dodge without stopping to think about it.
When we’re alone on a stage, surrounded by people looking at us, we can experience the fear that drove our ancestor to escape and survive.
But there’s a solution in our history, too. Our ancestors gained status and earned support by regaling their tribe with stories – while standing on a flat area and surrounded by staring eyes. Our bodies and minds have to make the leap from “surrounded by hostiles” to “surrounded by friends and supporters.”
Toastmasters meetings offer an excellent venue for this change of perspective. We find friendly folks surrounding us, listening to our tales. These aren’t predators, they’re tribe members. They’re just like us – and they like us.
When it’s our turn to stare at them instead of being the focus of their stares, we realize how much we can learn by watching. We improve our own talking by listening to their stories. We even learn to organize our thoughts by following the thoughts of a tribe member.
The Toastmasters meeting doesn’t magically overcome a natural, hard-wired fear that saved the lives of our ancestors. Instead, the meeting gives us an opportunity to change our perception of public speaking from “threat” to “sharing a story.”
And the Toastmasters’ process of trying, being evaluated, and repeating, ensures that our story-telling gets better – one speech (or one meeting role) at a time.