I’ve never had a problem speaking to individuals, or to a few people in small groups informally, but when I am in the spotlight–on a stage, during an interview or in meeting–I completely freeze. In school, I could never speak up in class, answer the teacher’s questions or participate in debates or dramas. I was always anxious, thinking of the other people as a group out to get me and waiting for me to fail. The fear of not being able to speak up when you are in the spotlight is called ‘glossophobia’.
As I grew up, I faced and overcame cancer. Circumstances led to a few news TV channels calling me on their shows to talk about my experience. Some were even live. I couldn’t just shy away and hide in the shadows. I had to step up and be in front of the camera, to help raise awareness about cancer. I tried to be strong and put my best foot forward at these interviews but, frankly, I’d often mess up, miss points. I would be unable to make much of an impact because I was afraid of public speaking, especially in front of strangers who in turn were taking my message to a larger audience.
All this changed for me last summer when I got an internship at Harappa Education as a mentee. Among the many courses to develop specific skills that Harappa Education offers, the course on ‘Speaking Effectively’ was something I knew I definitely needed to take. I had another TV interview for a talk show on a health channel lined up in a few weeks. It was all about how to to help and comfort cancer patients and their caregivers. This was a chance for me to bring my message across. I took the course in the hope that it would help me.
There were two key takeaways from the course that helped me overcome my fear of public speaking. One: I had to realize that the audience was my ally and that I need not be afraid of them. I worked to internalize this learning. I told myself, again and again, I needed to simply think of people as my allies who mean well for me–they have no reason to want me to fail, after all! I had to learn how to conquer my fear of public speaking without giving up.
The second part was to understand how to introduce Logos, Ethos and Pathos, or logic, emotion and credibility, in my speech. The course taught me how each of these factors played an important role in being an effective communicator.
On the day of the interview, I kept repeating “the audience is my ally” again and again, to reassure myself that everything would be fine. I also structured my story and experiences keeping Logos, Ethos and Pathos in mind, and I found I was able to put my points across clearly. The taping of the show went off really well.
I felt this one interview had more impact than all the previous ones put together. That’s because this time I had an ally.
Oraya Sayeed is a student at Gargi College, Delhi University. Her curiosity drives her to try new and different things. With her hands in multiple cookie jars, she has her own home bakery ‘Oraya’s Oven’, does some freelance social media marketing and is a mentee at Harappa Education.
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