The King’s Speech

This evening I was able to finally watch the movie called The King’s Speech.  The movie was well done and was both inspirational and motivational.  For those who haven’t watched the movie, the short summary is that the King had a speech impediment and he was able to overcome it by the end of the movie.

It reminded me of two points in my life.

One, was when I was seven years old and moved to the U.S. from Israel.  At the time, I was fluent in Hebrew and had limited knowledge of the English language.  My parents decided to move to the U.S. quite abrubtly and didn’t have time to prepare for the new country while in Israel.  I was half way through second grade when I moved and joined a Jewish day school and the primary language spoken was English.   My first few years in the U.S. were quite challenging as I was playing catch up the entire time and was lacking self-confidence due to the language deficiency.  I had kids in school who made fun of my language skills, which lowered my self-confidence even further.  In the movie, the key challenge for the King was the lack of self-confidence and it took a lot of coaching for the King to gain his confidence and he nails his speech at the end.  The positive takeaway is that with practice and support, you are able to increase your confidence.   Both the King’s Father and Brother mocked and ridiculed him, which obviously didn’t assist the King in improving his speaking skills.  Unfortunately, if you have a speech impediment or language difficulty, you might have people around you such as the King’s Father and Brother.   Despite the two of them, the King was able to accomplish his goal.

The other point in my life that the movie reminded me of, was my college days.  I attended both Foothill College and Santa Clara University, and every time I had to present in front of my class, it was so frightening.  I think the fear of public speaking was derived from the time in my life when I didn’t know English very well and experienced some challenges in picking up the language.  I recall times in college where several days leading up to a presentation, I would be so nervous and anxious.  Failure was always in the back of my mind and I didn’t want people to make fun of me, which really held me back.

A few years after graduating from college, I decided to do something about my fear of public speaking.  I’m not sure who told me about Toastmasters, but I started looking into the organization.   After researching the organization, I found a few chapters near my home and work.  The first few chapters I found were not a great fit for me, but I finally found one chapter in Mountain View that I decided to call home.   Several years of Toastmasters allowed me to practice my public speaking in a safe environment and increased my confidence.  Since then, I’ve had the chance to sit on panels and speak in small audiences, typically 50 people or so.   The size of the audiences that I’m speaking to seems to be increasing over time and have recently had the chance to speak in front of audiences of several hundred people.  I don’t consider myself to be a great speaker yet, but I’m on my way and I’m always trying to find opportunities to increase my self-confidence.

If you have a fear of public speaking for whatever reason, there are people and organizations such as Toastmasters who can assist.  You will be able to overcome your fears!  As they said in the movie, don’t be afraid of your own shadow.

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