Don’t be afraid, my mentor is here

August 25, 2021

Do you have a phobia of speaking in front of a group? Yes, I have. That is why I became a member of the Toastmasters group. I practice more and strive to overcome my fears. That’s why, at a social meal, I was fortunate enough to meet Ernest Chen and ask him to be my Mentor. And it is due to his generosity in accepting me as a protege that I am here today to write about this topic.

I almost forgot about my fear after all of these periods. In front of a small group of friends, my anxiousness subsided. Until last month, I met one of my Mentor’s students, a young girl. She’s just thirteen years old, yet she dreams of one day becoming a successful diplomat translator. If you want to succeed in an international setting, you must be able to talk in public. Her aim has all of us impressed, and my Mentor is here to assist her in realizing her dream.

It would take a lot of practice to achieve the dream. A lot of training is required. The Mentor instructed her to give a two-minute speech at the start of the class. It may be about anything related to school, the Olympics, or what we learnt that day. Because there were just five of us, it would be a breeze. Anyone could talk for two minutes in a matter of seconds.

Despite this, she was speechless. She was apprehensive about starting the first sentence. She was under pressure from the audience, particularly her mother, who urged her to try to speak. But this girl was under pressure from her mother. “Quick!” her mother urged the small girl to speak. Please begin your remarks right away; don’t squander our time.” The greater the pressure, the more difficult it is for her to stand up and speak. The more she waited, the more terrified she became.

She eventually gave in to the pressure and collapsed. She began to cry. Her tears began to fall. Not only could I sense her apprehension about public speaking, but I could also see her crying. “Don’t be afraid,” Ernest, my mentor, said to her. “Your instructor has arrived. I’m here to assist you. Simply begin with the first statement, and the rest will follow. There is no such thing as right or wrong. Do not be alarmed.” Ernest Chen comforted her and gave her a lot of support. She gathered her courage and stood up, and started to deliver the speech. When she finished her speech, she was overjoyed and regained her self-assurance.

Would my Mentor be able to assist her in overcoming her phobia in a short period? Of course not, at least not soon. Being taught not to be afraid will not make your fear go away. My Mentor, too, practised for many years and put forth a lot of work to learn. I was encouraged with many trophies hanging on the walls and inside the glass shelves of the training area. The small girl did not immediately overcome her phobia, but she did progress the next week. More importantly, she seemed to get better and better each week, becoming more and more confident.

I’m about twenty years older than this tiny girl now. When it’s my turn to talk, I’ll say something. I’m hoping I won’t cry out of terror in front of the crowd. However, I felt the pressure, but it was manageable with a five-person audience. I’m developing as well, attempting to apply some of the things I learned from my Mentor. Surprisingly, even with more practice, the dread of public speaking does not appear to fade away.

I was at my day job as an engineering manager last week. I had a big customer presentation with seventy people in the audience. It featured senior personnel from the Singaporean multinational corporation, including the CEO, who offered taxi booking, food delivery, and digital payment services. I needed to demonstrate our key banking product to him. The stakes were high.

I created the script, memorized it, and practised it hundreds of times in front of the mirror, just like I did for the toastmasters club speech. I also incorporate body language, conversational tone, and a dash of comedy. Nonetheless, the anxiety of public speaking persisted. “What if I say something stupid in the speech?” my thoughts wondered. What if I forget about my script and just say whatever comes to mind? What if I humiliate myself in front of this critical meeting’s large audience?” Yes, what if… haunted me the entire time I was in the delivery room.

My inner voice was becoming increasingly pessimistic, but then another voice entered my mind. Ernst Chen, my mentor, was speaking. “Don’t be afraid; your instructor is here,” he repeated over and again to the small girl. Begin with the first statement, and the rest will follow. There is no such thing as right or wrong. “Do not be alarmed.”

My talk was still stressful, but the demo was going well. My client’s CEO seemed to be impressed. He followed up with two more inquiries, which was a positive indication. At the very least, it indicates that he could comprehend my presentation to ask questions. I practised public speaking skills seemed to stand out among the other six demonstrations in that one hour.

I’d like to take this occasion to express my gratitude to Ernst Chen. He is a fantastic public speaking teacher who can teach you about impromptu speaking, rhetorical tactics, and life wisdom. I’d have to practice for years to get to his level of proficiency and win a speech contest. But, for the time being, he has taught me the first baby steps to overcome my phobia of public speaking. “Don’t be afraid,” he reassured us. “Your mentor has arrived.” I still hear the echo, “Start the speech; your Mentor is here to lead you along,” when I’m giving my speech without my Mentor present. I can tap into this mantra and properly implement it. Ernest Chen coined the phrase “enjoy the present vicariously” as a learning word. Remember, if you know that Ernest Chen is by your side, you will not stumble or make mistakes. Cognitive psychology is a term used to describe the study of the mind. It boosts self-assurance and allows you to communicate freely.


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Experience in software development, application architecture, and deploying cloud solutions for enterprise customers. Strong hands-on skills with a Master's degree in Computer Science and business acumen with a master of business administration (MBA) in Finance. Certified in Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, Kubernetes (CKA, CKAD, CKS, KCNA) and Scrum (PSM, PSPO) with experience in building banking products from scratch. Connect on Linkedin

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