In 2008, Manoj Vasudevan was so “petrified” of public speaking that it took him nine months of Toastmasters meetings before he gave a speech.
In 2017, he became the Toastmasters International world champion of public speaking.
Vasudevan beat out more than 30,000 competitors over six months in the largest competition of its kind with confidence, style, and an exceptional ability to read an audience and adjust his speech accordingly. It’s hard to see him on stage and imagine that less than 10 years ago he couldn’t even stand before a small group of friends.
To get over his fear, he told Business Insider, he had to get over himself. That is, he had to let go of his ego.
It’s the same with anyone whose heart flutters or brow sweats when they stand before an audience. “There’s a bit of narcissism inside of that because they’re so focused on themselves.”
Vasudevan believes that there are three levels everyone goes through on their path to becoming a great public speaker.
In the first level, speakers are primarily concerned about themselves. This doesn’t have to mean that they’re cocky — someone who is self-effacing and terrified on stage is also overestimating how much the audience cares about them personally during their speech.
In the second level, the speakers have gained a level of comfort onstage, but they have still linked their presentation’s message with their ego. They are focused on impressing their audience, and in an attempt to dazzle them with their intellect or talent, they come across as trying too hard, and their effectiveness is diluted.
Finally, a speaker who has reached proficiency has separated themselves from their message. They don’t worry about their appearance, or how smart they sound. They have worked to best communicate lessons they have learned, and their lack of self-consciousness makes it easier for them to connect with the audience.
Getting over a fear of public speaking, Vasudevan said, occurs when there’s a mindset shift from “public speaking is about impressing the audience” to “public speaking is about sharing knowledge.”
Vasudevan said that even he gets nervous ahead of speeches in front of large crowd, but he reminds himself of the advice he gives all other speakers: “Remember, you’re there to serve. When you’re in service, there is no fear.”
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