I received this message from a friend today which made me feel really sad….

I have a friend who is at Uni and she has to do a presentation to over 1000 people at the end but at the moment she doesn’t have the confidence to do so (she has even considered dropping out for this reason alone)

… and angry that a presentation could pose such a threat to someone’s degree success.

Imagine if, instead of a presentation, everyone was expected to take part in a diving competition at the end of their final year? Would we simply expect everyone to be able to do this? What about those who never had swimming lessons or were scared of water? Would we just push them in the deep end and expect them to get on with it? And those that did have the standard set of school swimming lessons, would they be able to dive sufficiently well from a high board? Okay maybe not. Perhaps we might tell them how to do it first; give them a book, show them a video or even a few hours training. Then they’d be able to do it wouldn’t they? No, don’t be silly, of course not! And don’t be facetious I hear you say, this is a silly comparison. But is it really?

Think about it… What public speaking lessons were you given in school? Was it as many as you had swimming lessons? How many of your public speaking experiences through school, university and perhaps even into your career were of the ‘sink or swim’ type?

Given the value that we put on public speaking, shouldn’t we instead be building our young people’s skills and confidence regularly so that they can present sufficiently well when they get to these challenges?

Luckily, this person has found support in my friend and should hopefully smash the presentation and the degree! But what about all those others who may be drowning? We should be giving everyone the confidence in public speaking right through school, university and well into their careers, not fuelling their fears.