We don’t go in for the Oscars much – overhyped, overrated and self-indulgent in our opinion.
So, following last night’s haul of awards for The King’s Speech, we find ourselves a tad surprised to be recommending it to any entrepreneur who might have time to go to the cinema.
Colin Firth gives the most convincing portrayal of a man absolutely paralysed by fear that we have ever seen on stage or screen. Yet this is not because he is in a horror movie or a war film.
The poor man is terrified because he has to make a speech.
This is a very common fear. Even great leaders and orators are not immune. Sir Winston Churchill, for example, never shook off his nerves before a big public performance or a live broadcast. This might actually have been to his advantage, because it forced him to take refuge in meticulous preparation every time he spoke. It was this preparation that made him a great speaker – so it might be said that it was his very nervousness that made him great. Yet even he was never comfortable when he had to speak in public off the cuff.
For some people, like the late King George VI, public speaking evokes not just nervousness but abject terror. This may be just one manifestation of a problem that goes far deeper but is also very common.
Most of us – perhaps 95% of us or more – dislike social encounters with people with whom we are unfamiliar. A formal platform speech is an extreme form of a social situation outside most personal comfort zones, but almost everyone faces more informal situations every day that involve interaction with perfect strangers. All of them have the potential to be stressful, especially when they are unstructured and therefore contain elements of uncertainty.
This is particularly true for entrepreneurs. Every day, we have to initiate contact with people we have never met. We may have to write to them, telephone them, or meet them cold, but in every case the obligation is on us to make a positive impression. A few – a tiny few – positively thrive on this challenge, but most of us find it daunting.
A viewing of The King’s Speech might be helpful because it reminds us that we are far from alone in our fears, and there are others who experience them to a degree far beyond what most of us can even imagine. More than that, it shows how even one of those extreme sufferers can find the courage to overcome them. For true courage can only be found not where fear is never felt but where fear is strongest.