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It's Going To Be Frightening

Melvyn Tan
Melvyn Tan
2 min read

My First Presentation

My heart is about to pop out. My hands are sweaty. My throat is dry. I’m about to throw up.

It’s so scary to go on stage. I used to throw up before I went on stage, every time.

~Joel Kinnaman

This was how I felt when I was about to give a 15 minutes preview of the course I was running back in 2004. The number of people in the audience couldn’t be more than 60, but nonetheless I was afraid.

I must have sounded really scared because no one signed up for that course. The feedback from the audience confirmed it.

The organizer was gracious when he smiled and told me to give it another try. He never return my calls.

Ever since, I have had the opportunity to speak publicly to 80, 90, 100, and even 300 people. Though I’ve never quite gotten over the nervousness before going on stage, I’m now no longer afraid.

How To Overcome This

I use two techniques whenever I go on stage now.

Technique #1: Focus on the audience.
Whenever I go on stage, either to give a public speech or a presentation or a training, I would focus on the audience instead of focusing on me.

I would ask myself, “how can I value add to their lives in the next 45 minutes”, rather than asking “how can I do a good job”.

By focusing on others, I’ve directed my attention away from myself and onto how they can benefit and how I can better serve them.

Technique #2: I am growing.
There’s always first time for anything.

Recently, my 4yo attended a course that has a bigger class size than what he’s grown accustomed to. He later told my wife he’s afraid and doesn’t want to attend the next class.

I know how it feels. Frankly, that’s how I felt when I was little. So instead of telling him, “it’s okay to be afraid” or “there’s nothing to be afraid of, I shared this technique with him.

I told him, whenever you are afraid, tell yourself, “I am growing”.

The first time you went into the water, you were afraid. But you grew by learning how to float. And then you were asked to swim laps. You were afraid. But you grew by learning how to swim laps.

If, however, you’ve stopped at floating, then you’d never learn to swim laps and you’d never grow. So remember, every time you are afraid, tell yourself this: I am growing.

Your Turn…

Action: It can be frightening. And you are probably afraid.

But you grow by writing down your vision. And remember, your vision is not about you, but it is about how you can add value, how you can serve, how you can contribute.

You can tell God about it. Or perhaps your spouse. Or your best friend. Or you don’t have to announce it to anyone if you don’t wish to.

But the point is: write down your vision. While you’re at it, write down your vision at the personal level, but also at the people and professional levels as well.

Melvyn Tan

Despite living the good life at midlife, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My aim here is to reinvent midlife, learn new skills, and understand how the world works post-COVID.