by Dr. Dilip
So Long, Stage Fright
Banish public speaking jitters with 10 top
by Azriela Jaffe
Georgia will never forget the day she stepped to the
microphone, looked at a sea of 400 expectant faces, and froze, unable to
utter a single word. The consultant and businesswoman, who asked
not to be identified, said it took several years of therapy and speech
training to get her back to the microphone. The experience drained
her personally and almost killed her business. But she's back on her
feet now, dazzling her audiences.
The Book of Lists ranks the fear of public speaking
before the fear of death for most people. Like Georgia, many of us are
afraid of making fools of ourselves in such a situation. If the thought
of standing behind a podium, taking the chair at the end of the conference
room table, or even presenting ideas to a client leaves you a little weak in
the knees, there is help.
Georgia found hers in Dilip R. Abayasekara, founder of Speaker
Services Unlimited, a consulting firm in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Abayasekara is one
a mission to help professionals rid themselves of debilitating jitters.
Tropical To Topical
At first glance, Abayasekara is an unlikely master for such a task.
Born on the tropical island of Sri Lanka, off the southern tip of India, he
grew up speaking mainly Sinhalese. But Abayasekara's parents attended
British-run schools where they learned the Queen's English, which they then
taught their seven children.
Abayasekara's fascination with public speaking started when he
was a boy. His family employed a child as a domestic. "He and I
would often compose speeches in Sinhalese and give them to each other",
Abayasekara recalls. "When I grew older I studied great American
and English speeches, like those of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, and
other famous orators."
After completing high school, Abayasekara came to the United
States on an exchange program, "The Experiment in International
Living". He was hosted by several families in Dayton, Ohio. He went
on to earn a B.S. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and polymer
science from Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond.
During his college career, Abayasekara pursued his interest in
public speaking by taking every related class open to non-speech/drama
students. "These courses were a welcome respite from the arduous
studying I had to do for my chemistry, physics, and math classes", he
says, adding that he immediately entered an oratorical contest organized for
students. "It didn't even cross my mind that my accent might be an
obstacle", he recalls. "Looking back, I think the professor
who organized the contest was surprised that a foreign student entered. I
Following graduation, Abayasekara pursued his vocation as an
industrial scientist for 12 years but continued to practice his avocation by
joining Toastmasters, an international nonprofit organization that promotes
better listening, thinking and speaking for individuals. He thought of
it as means to help him excel in his career, and he embraced the concept of
"learning by doing in a supportive atmosphere".
Abayasekara quickly moved from learning to teaching. In six years,
he had topped the mantel in his home with more than 45 trophies from speech
competitions, including a second-place award at the World Championship or
Public Speaking. He was receiving invitations to speak and to lead
public speaking seminars.
In 1992, Abayasekara took the next step by starting a
Toastmasters club at the company where he worked in response to requests from
other scientists and engineers to help them polish their presentations.
"I led lunch-time workshops and also conducted eight-week sessions on
effective speaking at several plants in my company", he says.
It wasn't long before Abayasekara decided to turn his
part-time hobby into a full-time occupation. In 1996, 10 years after his
first Toastmasters meeting, he turned in his chemist's flask for a speaker's
microphone and never looked back. Today, Abayasekara sits on
Toastmaster's International Board.
Those Who Can, Coach
Abayasekara has a number of clients throughout the Northeast, many of whom
prefer anonymity because of high-profile positions. His list of clients
includes professional organizations, colleges, and the Pentagon. But
what he loves to do more than anything is to serve as a private coach.
He has coached company presidents, university professors, physicians, city
officials, scientists, engineers, clergy, and even speech contestants.
"Dr. Abayasekara taught me the importance of using mind
mapping, which is a valuable tool that assists the presenter in remembering
important topics", says one client, a marketing specialist from
Delaware. He also shared tips such as "know your topic, memorize
your opening statement, pause throughout your speech to make a point, and
The president of a marketing/communications company says
Abayasekara customized a program to meet specific needs. "As a successful
business owner, I knew that my skill level at oral presentations was my
greatest weakness". Videotaping the sessions was very helpful in
identifying unconscious gestures, hesitations, etc. I learned that, like
in everything else in life, preparation is the key to being an effective
Find Your Gifts
If you should decide to hire a speech coach, look for one who will address
the emotional issues involved in effective speech-making, not just techniques,
"Effective public speaking is 95 percent mental
preparedness and 5 percent technique. If only the 5 percent is learned,
the client will be a technical robot and speech training will not have a
long-term impact," he says.
Perhaps what makes Abayasekara most important to his clients
is his ability to convince them that they are remarkable individuals with
something of importance to share with an audience. He believes that the
most powerful "technique" for converting self-consciousness to
self-confidence is to believe that you have something significant to offer.
Got presentation jitters? investing in a private speech coach
could be a wise investment in your career. Contact the local
Toastmasters or National Speakers Association chapters in your area to scout
out the right coach.
10 Tips from Abayasekara's Arsenal
to express, not to impress.
on blessing, not impressing.
"U" (you) comes before the "I" in "public"
"I" story must have a "you" message.
member of the audience is tuned into the radio station "WIIFM" -
"What's In It For Me?"
you go fishing, do you bait the hook with what you like to eat or what the fish like to eat? Talk about the
interests and needs of your audience, not simply what interests you.
effective speaker is so busy being audience-centered, he/she has no time to be self-centered.
of public speaking stems from the fear of being judged.
love of public speaking stems from the desire to impart something of value to your audience and the belief that
you have something of value to give.
most important speech you will give is the one for which you are preparing the most
important audience you will ever have is yourself.
Reach Abayasekara at 717-612-1600 email@example.com
Azriela Jaffe is the author of eight books, including, No.
Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business. E-mail
comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit her website www.isquare.com/crlink.htm.
Dilip R. Abayasekara, Ph.D.,
A.S. is a professional speaker, trainer, speech coach and CEO of Speaker
Services Unlimited. He specializes in helping organizations develop
leaders and helping people think, speak, and sell more effectively.
"Dr. Dilip" is the author of "The Path of the
Genie...Discover and Grow Your Own Genius" (available in video and audio
cassettes). He delivers seminars and workshops on Mind Mapping,
relationship building, presentation skills, impromptu speaking skills, sales,
and leadership to corporations and organizations. He also offers
seminars that are open to the general public and private coaching in
presentation skills and sales. Dr. Abayasekara can be reached at Speaker
Services Unlimited at (717) 612-1600 or send e-mail to: email@example.com