Conquering Fears

Throughout my childhood, there were three things that I feared: Jason from Friday the 13th, clowns, and public speaking.

The first two are pretty common, I’d say.  What could be scarier than a psychopath in a hockey mask chasing you through the woods with a machete?  I challenge you to find me something.  And clowns?  Do we really even need to go there?  Whoever over the years decided that they were loveable or even funny needs to have their head checked.

The fear of public speaking is shared by more people than I feel admit it.  I think that is because as they get older, avoiding getting up in front of a group of people becomes easier to avoid.  Most people start to gravitate towards the back of the room instead of the front and a desire to blend in rather than stand out takes over.

Throughout my childhood, I quickly became more and more flustered when I had to get up in front of a group of people.  I can remember my hands sweating, and the death grip I had on a note card back as far as 5th grade.  Things didn’t improve as time went on either.  It was a nerve wracking part of high school and college.  I just could not do it.  It is hard for me to pinpoint why I couldn’t, but it just did not seem to be how I was wired.

Over the last six or seven years, I’ve slowly chipped away at my fear, but I hadn’t completely defeated it.  I’ve taught some classes here and there, and spoke to some groups, but never really truly felt comfortable.  I realized though, especially in my year and a half of involvement with the podcasting and social media community that it was something I needed to overcome if I wanted to achieve the goals that I had set for myself.

This year at EMS Today it was pointed out to me how many great EMS leaders are so comfortable in front of a room full of people.  People like Skip Kirkwood, Mic Gunderson, Mike Touchstone and countless others up in front of a room full of people talking about what they were passionate about, which coincidentally was the same thing I was passionate about.  It was part of being a leader.  Leadership goes beyond just setting the right example, a person needs to also show others the way and let their stories be told.  After Baltimore, I decided that was something I had to start working on doing if I was ever going to reach the level that these guys had.

For me, the key to being comfortable with public speaking is my ability to be comfortable with the material I’m also providing, so that was what I set out to do.  I picked topics that interested me that were off the beaten path of what EMS educators in my area seemed to be talking about.  I did research, and used that research to develop what I felt were some pretty good power points, and then I found a venue to teach them in.  In the months since, I’ve spoken at a refresher, put on a couple of continuing education classes, and most recently, gave the opening lecture to two EMT classes.

Ten years ago, I would have frozen up and not been able to say a word, but standing in front of an auditorium full of close to forty EMT students who had no idea what they were getting into excited me.  I was ready to talk about what I am passionate about, and I had a group of people who were ready to listen, sure, they were there because they had to be but they at least seemed to enjoy myself.

Something I used to be terrified of is now something that I am wanting to do more and more.  Instead of gravitating towards the back of the room, I am starting to get the feeling that I want to actually be at the front instead.  I’d say at this point this fear is conquered.

I wouldn’t hold your breath on Jason and Bozo though. Â  They still make my skin crawl.