It’s been a while since I held the graduation speech at Aarhus University and I still find it hard to believe how comfortable and relaxed I felt while giving it. Looking back, I was once unable to speak in front of a group of people – the simple thought of public speaking terrified me. But things change and people overgrow their fears and this is exactly what I want to talk about. I want to tell you my story.
When I started my university degree, it felt like opening a new chapter in the book of life and I knew I had to make some changes. So I asked myself: what would I want to do differently or improve at during the upcoming three years?
Deep inside I always knew that I want to be good at public speaking and be able to share my thoughts freely, without any fear. Yet, I knew that if I want to be better at it, I need to PRACTICE. Only practice makes perfect, right?
What I realized back then was that you don’t need a bucket list for the promises you make to yourself. If it’s that important to you, it’ll happen when you’re ready for it. So what I did three years ago, was to promise myself that I’ll do everything in my power to get one step closer to getting rid of my public speaking fear.
It all started with volunteering. Being a part of a Student Association was the very first step towards a different me. Public speaking came along with various events. Hosting them was a true challenge in the beginning, but soon I came to realize that it wasn’t all that spooky. Speaking in front of 10, 20 or 40 people became rather easy after doing it several times. Practicing. Two years passed and I came to understand that I have expanded my comfort zone and public speaking was now a part of it.
When I was already feeling confident speaking in front of 40 or more people, I knew I need to challenge myself even more. I have reached a certain level in the game of public speaking, but there were still some levels to be unlocked. During my last year of university, I found out that every year one of the graduates gives a graduation speech. A sudden thought, the exact same one that Katniss Everdeen had in Hunger Games, came into my mind:
“I volunteer as a tribute!”
I had a really hard time deciding if I really want to push myself even further. Could I prepare a good graduation speech? But after a lot of doubts and wonderings, I have decided to tell several people at the university that I would be more than pleased to give a speech on behalf of the graduates.
A few weeks later, I received the official invitation to deliver the speech. It all became real and scary. I got the chance to speak at the graduation ceremony in front of approx. 300 people.
No words can describe how I felt when the speech was finally done. I had the best time of my life, that will always be one of the most memorable moments of my life.
When I think about myself three years ago and now, I do believe that I’ve fulfilled the promise that I once made to myself. Now I know that everyone is able to get rid of their fears and all it takes are just a few steps out of your comfort zone. I hope that my short story can be a good example of how to conquer the fear of public speaking.
1. Everyone is afraid of public speaking. Everyone.
2. Step out of the comfort zone. But this time for real.
3. Don’t stop growing. Practice public speaking where you can, when you can.
4. Keep challenging yourself. There is no other way to progress and success.