I don’t like public speaking.
I think most people can relate.
It’s a skill I’d like to get better at for both personal and professional reasons.
The only way I figure I’ll improve on this particular skill set is to practice this particular skill set, no matter how far out of my comfort zone it may take me.
So when a teacher friend of mine asked if I would come speak to her senior classes, I told her I would.
Not only would I be speaking in front of a couple of senior classes, my son was going to be one of the seniors in that class. So if I froze up or made a fool of myself, I would be doing so in front of him and everyone he goes to school with daily.
I asked two friends of mine if they would be so kind as to speak to the seniors with me. They are both also in public safety. Each one has many more years of experience than I, so the kids should be in good hands even if I never uttered a word. They both immediately agreed to help out.
The day arrives when we are to speak at the school. I’m beginning to think that maybe a classroom full of high school seniors, one of which is my child, might not have been the best audience to work on my fear of public speaking with.
Everything ended up being perfectly fine. I opened up the talk. I’m sure I turned red and stammered my way through my brief introduction. I assume I wasn’t too embarrassing, since my son didn’t ask the teacher for the hall pass as I spoke. He was sitting on the back row, as far away as he could get from me, though.
Soon after my introduction, I turned the floor over to my friends who spoke. Then we had an open discussion with the students, which went well, by all accounts.
I went out of my comfort zone and came back with, I hope, an improved skill. Life is lived and skills sharpened outside of a comfort zone. That’s been my experience anyway.
I’m hoping for more opportunities to speak in public. I am far from smooth or comfortable. But I’m better than I was at the beginning of this column, so that’s progress.
And as my profession continues to show me, going outside of your comfort zone, with people you love and trust, is the only way to do business.
I am thankful for the two friends who didn’t hesitate when I asked to come speak. They were helping the students by sharing their experiences. They were helping me just by being there beside me, as they always seem to be when I need them.
Toby Nix is a local writer, guitarist and deputy sheriff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .