Plenty of knowledgeable, creative people find themselves mid-career uncomfortable speaking in front of a boardroom. They let their colleagues speak to clients because they’re ill at ease. “I think that’s a crime,” says Tracey Madigan, “because these people are super smart. They have multiple degrees, but none of the classes in university made you comfortable with communicating all the things that you’re learning.”
The situation can snowball. Inexperienced speakers often compare themselves to those who habitually speak in front of others, who in turn might be more likely to address a group. “The next time there comes an opportunity to speak, the experienced person says, yeah, I’ll do it, I did it last time. And then the first person thinks, I’d never be able to do that. And then the gap grows and grows for no reason except for the fact that the very first time one person said, ok, I’ll do that.
”This is why, Madigan says, people should be given an opportunity to practice in a safe place so that the stakes are not so high when they’re just getting to know their speaking style, what they like and don’t like. “They don’t even know what they don’t like about it, just that they don’t want to do it. And that’s crazy.”
“You just keep doing it and doing it and doing it until you realize it isn’t that big of a deal,” she says. The path to improvement is practice that feels real.