If you’ve ever taken an English, communications or public speaking class in school, chances are you’ve had to get up in front of everybody and give the dreaded speech. I know I’ve given my fair share of speeches, and every time I always hated it because I got really nervous, stuttered, forgot what I was going to say or hurried the speech so that my thoughts ran together, and I confused myself. But one thing I always seemed to do was get apprehensive about going up in front of everyone in my wheelchair.
You see, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I always used to get stared at a lot when I was younger because I was in a wheelchair, and it really made me sad and have really low self esteem. So you can imagine how scared I was whenever I had to get up in front of a group of my fellow students. My palms got all sweaty, my throat felt dry, and I felt like I was going to die right there in mid sentence. Looking back I would have rather had surgery or gotten my finger stuck than had to have gotten up and opened my mouth in front of people and actually talk. I mean I had no idea what they were thinking or whether they were judging me, so they might have thought I was a big baby for being so nervous and stuttering like a complete fool.
As I have gotten older and more mature I’ve really overcome a lot of apprehension about being in my wheelchair, and working with the city of Marietta has really helped me get over my shyness and stuttering. And as far as my self esteem, it’s through the roof thanks to the last five years working for the city. Now don’t get me wrong, I do have some days where I stutter, especially meeting someone for the first time, whether in person or over the phone. I guess I’m just so focused on giving a good impression I don’t want to screw up, and that’s what does make me stutter and get nervous.
As I close, let me share a few tips that have really helped me whenever I talk to somebody about what I do for the city. I’ve had so much practice, it’s almost like second nature now, but remembering these tips always helps.
First, slow down. If you slow down and think about what you’re saying you’ll really enjoy the conversation a lot more and the other person will definitely remember it too. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out in public talking to someone, and what seemed like just a couple-minute chat turned into a 30-minute conversation. Some of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had were because I slowed down and took my time talking to someone, and after we finish the chat they always tell me what a pleasure it was talking to me and they hope to see me again soon.
Second, take a deep breath just before you think you’re going to have a conversation with someone, but don’t over exaggerate. I mean don’t make it look like you’re taking a deep breath, you don’t want to have balloon cheeks when the person walks up… Something about taking a deep breath always helps clear my mind and helps me get my thoughts together so I can give the person I’m talking to my undivided attention.
Third, and for me most important, make sure you have something to drink close by. If you talk for a long time without stopping, you’re almost guaranteed to have a dry throat before too long. If I have a dry throat, I tend to get choked and start coughing, and nothing is worse or turns a person off more than talking to someone who can’t carry a conversation without hacking up a hairball.
Try these tips and let me know how you do next time you have to give a presentation or talk to someone at work or over the phone. I bet you’ll be terrific!!! 🙂