For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
January 20, 2005 - Public Speaking
I can still remember it. I was a sophomore in high school, and had to give a talk for my Civics class. It was agonizing: would I be called on that day, or the next? Part of me desperately wanted to put it off. Part of me just wanted it to be OVER.
Like thousands upon thousands of people, I was absolutely terrified of public speaking.
In retrospect, it's hard to remember why. Well, I do remember this. One day, one of my fellow students was giving his talk and gave a little snort. A large wad of green snot landed right in the middle of his white shirt. Fortunately, he had a handkerchief with him, and rather nonchalantly dabbed himself clean.
If it had been me, I would have died. Right on the spot. I don't carry a handkerchief. I would have had to move to another state. If I did survive, I would have to live and relive that awful moment for the rest of my life.
But that's the trap, isn't it? Behind the fear of public speaking is the fear of humiliation, of somehow being the recipient of mass scorn, contempt, or rejection.
As it happens, I no longer have that fear. Mainly, I suppose, that's because in college I was part of a traveling troupe of poets and musicians. Somehow, once the ground rules were changed from Dread Duty, to an Act of Irreverence, public speaking got to be a lot of fun.
To my surprise, that fear reared again some years later, when I had to sing and dance as part of a play. It almost magically disappeared one day when another actor asked me just what is was that I was afraid of. I couldn't answer.
Even if I totally bombed -- and I'd seen other actors do that, even very good actors -- I'd still wake up the next morning.
At some point in your life you have to decide: are you going to be a prisoner of your fear of failure, or an explorer of the possibility of joy?
Guess which one has a better time.
But there is another way to overcome a fear of public speaking: read up on it, talk about it, attend a class, join the Toastmasters, keep putting yourself in a position where you have to get used to it.
Maybe you're one of the people whose insides turn to jelly when you have to stand up in front of others. If so, you might be interested in an upcoming session at the Philip S. Miller Library's Castle Rock Bank Meeting Room.
On Saturday, January 22, from 10 a.m. to noon, Tom Fanning will give a presentation called "Beyond Speaking." This interactive lecture will talk about some of the common issues faced by public speakers. He'll talk about strategies for overcoming your anxiety, and how to move on to both effectiveness and real pleasure.
Tom has been an executive coach, business process consultant, motivational speaker, and more. This introductory talk is free.
So come on down. What are you afraid of?