Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking Through Storytelling

After a series of unfortunate events that left my esteem beaten and me = even more insecure, last year embarked the beginning of my journey of self-improvement.

It started with overcoming the fear of public speaking. Instead of joining a public speaking course, I joined a Storytelling workshop at a local Adult Learning Community Centre, Morleys College.

Joining a local community college meant that you got such a mixed bag. It also meant you get to mix with people from all different backgrounds, ages and socio-economic status outside of your usual bubble. These people think, live and act so differently to you.

The activities we did brought out everyone’s individual personality rather than you telling others what you did and who you were. Every single person in our class was fascinating.

It ended up being, without doubt, one of the best things I could have done.

Let me tell you why.

I did not know what to expect

The workshop involved a series of activities, which to begin with, were not storytelling related. They were fun team-building tasks that forced you to get to know the group beyond your identity. You got to know each other beyond a name, beyond your job, your culture and your background.

I was scared

I remember one of the activities VERY clearly. We were paired off into twos and were instructed to tell each other a ‘story’ about yourself. Then each person had to stand up, remember and tell the same story of the other person in the manner of the person. Sounds easy right?

I got stage fright

I stood up and immediately forgot what my partner had told me. The fear of having to remember something, the fear of all those watchful eyes made me want to sink into a hole and disappear. I ended up being so scared I tried to say some words but instead stammered, “n..n..n..no I can’t do it” and sat back down.

The workshop instructor, Eli told me calmly that he wasn’t going to let me not do the task. He told me we were in a safe place.

“No one’s judging everyone’s supporting you don’t worry about getting it right just say whatever you remember and that’s all you need to do. I’m not going to let you not do this.”

Eli Anderson

Those were his words. I remember them so clearly. Those words gave me strength and whilst trembling I stood back up in front of the group of strangers to try again. Within 10 seconds it was over and I felt relieved. Eli made me recognise that feeling of going from fear, to being brave to relief and really praised me for overcoming that mental barrier.

Then…I burst into tears

I cried in front of the whole group. It was so embarrassing. But for some reason it felt like a release. I was letting out all that bad juju. From then on the workshop was the most fun you could imagine – I felt like I was at The Edinborough Fringe most of the time! Each person was encouraged to tell stories and express themselves in their own ways and every single person was so amazingly unique. I loved the fact we were mixed up amongst such a diverse group of people and for the first time in a while, I saw true creativity shine through in so many different ways from every single person in that room.

And it was magical.

I’m still scared.

I haven’t gotten over the fear but it made me much more confident knowing in order to be good at public speaking you just have to be yourself. Nothing more. Everyone expresses themselves, speaks and delivers information differently. There is no SET standard.

When you work in a corporate environment you start believing you have to be a certain ‘way’ and this workshop showed me that you can be yourself and still deliver your message.

I saw how a diverse group of people told stories in their own unique ways. The workshop made you feel that being ordinarily you was enough and that creativity and inspiration were already inside every single one of us. It just took courage, support and a feeling that you can be yourself for that creativity to erupt out of you like a volcano.

That’s why I wanted to introduce a very special person to the Madhat gang. Let’s welcome: Eli Anderson the workshop tutor, Storytelling Guru and Founder of StoryAid. This very inspiring individual is doing some amazing things and we want to tell the world!

Read our interview with Eli Anderson here

By Becky Liu

An avid explorer, learner and adventure finder. Becky's favourite thing in the world is learning. She also loves blogging as it's her safe place to document and explore thoughts, dreams and ideas. Spends most of her days daydreaming, creating, internetting. Current important things to her: art and design thingies, experiencing new stuff and learning more about people and the world we live in.