One of the best presents I got for Christmas was a book called Microadventures
by Alastair Humphreys. It’s a collection of ideas for ways to challenge yourself in the Great Outdoors and thereby expand your comfort zone, written for people who consider themselves too busy, poor, unfit or otherwise unsuitable for this type of activity. Adventure on this scale is open to anyone.
As I was leafing through the pages and eagerly making plans, I was reminded again of how subjective fear can be. The prospect of sleeping out on a hillside in a bag fills me with conflicting emotions, with various semi-formed fears looming large at the forefront. What if someone shouts at me? What if someone laughs at me? What if I get it wrong in some way? Yet, to a different person, a night in the open is no big deal, a bit of fun.
It’s the same phenomenon so many of us go through when called upon to make a speech or presentation. And the solution is the same: before you set out, make sure you know what you’re doing. When you’re thoroughly prepared, be brave, brazen it out and don’t let yourself be sucked into any scary fantasies.
It also occurred to me anew how useful it can be to take an oblique approach to overcome a big fear. If public speaking frightens you, expanding your comfort zone in other directions will give you courage you can draw on when addressing an audience.
As with sleeping under the stars, so with public speaking: make sure you’re well prepared, then take a deep breath and enjoy the adventure!