Public speaking: does it fill you with terror?

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Exactly 75 years ago today, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid tribute to the Royal Air Force in his most famous speech, saying, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.

Now there was a great man and a great speaker. I was thinking about speeches and just how difficult it is, and yet how easy some people make it seem.

Allan Blackburn, Owner of GB Antiques Centre and Lancaster Leisure Park

Allan Blackburn, Owner of GB Antiques Centre and Lancaster Leisure Park

For some, having to stand up and make a speech is simply terrifying. How many best men do you know who are literally shaking when making their speech, and that’s in front of family and friends. You would think they would find it easier with a warm, captive and sympathetic audience.

For others, it’s second nature and it’s these people who really understand the power of words, confidence and presentation. Churchill was a master, the country was in turmoil and we hung on to his every word for news, information and comfort. Other great speakers who come to mind include Martin Luther King, JF Kennedy and Mandela.

I’m not comparing myself to these greats in any way at all, but wanted to mention just how important speaking in public has been to me.

Trained as salesman in my family firm for 25 years, it was only when I started my own business and set up Lancaster Leisure Park that my negotiating skills, people skills and communication skills came to be so important.

Closing deals, dealing with the public, treating people correctly and communicating with staff properly all goes into being a good employer and a fair person to deal with.

I used to speak regularly to WI, golf, business and Rotary groups as an after dinner speaker.

I would talk about my business, antiques and being on the radio. I loved doing it but would always get nervous before a show.

The warmth of the audience, though, was infectious and after a few minutes I was confident, in my flow and I really enjoyed it.

Nowadays, I talk on the radio every month and love the intimacy of the small broadcasting room but still get nervous if I think about just how many houses I’m being heard in.

I have to say my public speaking has improved dramatically over the years and only because of the amount of practice I’ve done.