Is Public Speaking Like Eating Peas?

Written by A’s Netter, Diane DiResta.

When I was a child, I didn’t like eating peas. I would sit at the dinner table and push them around on my plate. Then, I’d spear one pea with my fork and gulp it down like bitter medicine. My grandfather observing this avoidance ritual suggested I mix my peas in my mashed potatoes so I wouldn’t taste them. It worked! I started mixing peas and mashed potatoes at dinner. I still didn’t like peas but he made them more palatable.

And this is the case for many people. They avoid public speaking because they don’t like it. I would have been okay if I didn’t have peas in my diet. But for professionals and leaders, avoiding public speaking is career suicide. Consider the second year law student I coached who was going to drop out of law school because she was afraid of speaking in class. After coaching her she learned to mix the right mindset with the right skill set. Imagine if she had dropped out of law school because of public speaking fear.

Today she’s a lawyer and giving effective presentations. She found the right mix.

Consider the middle manager who avoided speaking at meetings. Her throat would tighten up causing her to clam up and not participate. The quickest way to become invisible in an organization is by not participating. The effect is not having a voice in meetings. The common perception is if you remain silent you don’t know anything. This can result in forfeiting promotions and being overlooked for high visibility projects or leadership opportunities.  I coached her to reduce vocal tension. She learned how to work her mind and her body so that the words wouldn’t stick in her throat.

Today, she has a new job at a higher level. And she’s speaking with ease.

An entrepreneur was successful in her business and enjoyed being a podcast host. She confided in me that she would love to speak on large stages but because of an auditory processing problem she couldn’t give speeches. She was not able to remember the sequence of ideas and words no matter how many times she practiced. She had so much to offer an audience but had given up on ever being on a big stage. This disability was her peas. She needed to find the mashed potatoes to overcome the limitation. I convinced her that she could speak on large stages. She could share her ideas. But the medium would be different.  Instead of delivering a speech which would stress her out and leave her searching for words, she could give a fireside chat. By putting two chairs on the stage, the interviewer could ask her questions allowing her to tell her story, share her wisdom, and inspire the audience. She was brilliant in conversation and on podcasts. A fireside chat would not require memorization and would showcase her brilliance.

She was excited to find the right mix that would allow her to reach more people and change more lives.

Today I like sweet peas. I’ve acquired a taste for them but it took time. For some people, public speaking is an acquired taste. As they gain confidence and mastery, they begin to enjoy giving presentations. For others, they may never like speaking. But by combining the right mental attitude and skill set they can certainly make it more palatable.

To learn how to Speak Confidently and Effectively check out my LinkedIn learning course. It ranked #5 on the Top 20 Most Popular courses.

To learn techniques to overcome fear of speaking, read chapter 3 of Knockout Presentations.

To work with me contact DiResta Communications, Inc.