A few years ago, I was invited to go on tv and talk about Katz Tales, a feelgood column I write in The Star, the Malaysian national newspaper.
When it comes to cats, I talk at Olympic level. Honestly, it’s a job to shut me up. But the second I watched an episode of the chat show, I got the heebie jeebies.
I thought, that presenter interviews famous people and who am I? Nobody! And what about the people watching? What if they think I'm an idiot or a nutcase?
But as I watched another episode, I realised something.
For me, my life is a story that stars me. I am in every scene. I am the centre of my universe. It’s me-me-me all the way.
But for the chat show host, her life story stars her. And for each and every viewer, it’s the same deal.
And that’s when I thought, wait a minute…
I put myself in the place of the presenter and imagined being her. On the day of the interview, she would be consulting with her colleagues, talking to her producer and her director, then it would be makeup, maybe she’d have to manage her advertisers too....
At some point, she'd meet me, and she'd do her job, behaving professionally - just as she would with the other three guests scheduled for that day.
It was a lightbulb moment: in her life story I was insignificant, a mere blip on the radar.
It liberated me. I could go on, talk cat and she wouldn't be judging. I wasn't important enough for her to even really notice me.
As for the viewers, it was the same. They might laugh for a moment, or be bored and go and make a cup of tea, but that would be it. I didn’t feature significantly in their life story either.
That experience underlined an important fact for me. Very often, our fear of public speaking runs so high, that we get a stress reaction – and it muddles our good sense.
When frightened, we imagine the worst. But our perceptions may not be true reflections of the facts.
So, if you have to do a presentation, and you find yourself in a spiralling panic, take a step back, think it over and consider the matter from all angles.
My learning experience has kept me centred for all my public speaking. I hope it helps you, too.
If you’re stressed or need help or support, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up a video conference appointment by Skype. It's super private, nobody knows we're talking. The first twenty minutes are free.