Author Susan Ryan nearly dropped out of college when she discovered she would have to make a presentation at the end of second year, so deep ran her fear of public speaking. She spoke to Ryan Tubridy about this fear and how she first became aware of it during a game of charades at school when she was 15.
“My whole body just broke down. It was a physiological reaction. Everybody started laughing at me and this massive feeling of needing to run came upon me. I had no control over my body, my face started twitching and I went, that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Since then, she avoided public speaking like the plague, and she’s not the only one.
“There was a survey done in the UK recently… They discovered that people rated the fear of being buried alive below the fear of public speaking. Essentially we are social beings. We need to feel a sense of belonging to a group and the fear of rejection is very strong so being ridiculed and laughed at plays with a medieval part of us that we fear.”
Everything changed for Susan when she heard a piece on Toastmasters, a supportive environment in which to learn and practice public speaking, on The Gerry Ryan Show. She took action straight away.
“I emailed them and I went to great pains to point out how bad I was in case they thought I needed psychological help as opposed to public speaking help and I got this email back and it said, sounds familiar, see you Tuesday, so I went along and never looked back!”
Susan’s Toastmasters club gave her the skills to express her ideas, which were crucial when it came to pursuing her dream of becoming a novelist and promoting her work. The programme consisted of making ten speeches and at the end, she had completely transformed the way she spoke and the way she thought about public speaking.
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