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Home » How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking: Danish Dhamani (Transcript)

How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking: Danish Dhamani (Transcript)

Here is the full Transcript and summary of Orai’s CEO Danish Dhamani’s TEDx Talk: How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking @ TEDxKids@SMU conference

Listen to the MP3 Audio:

Danish Dhamani – Co-founder at

My name is Danish and my full-time job is to count people’s ums arms and ahs and like.

It all started at my first day of school, after my family moved from Pakistan to Tanzania. I was busy sketching my dream cars in my notebook and all of a sudden, I hear a voice in my direction: the teacher.

“Danish, can you please rise up and introduce yourself?”

She had put me on the spot. I was in this foreign land, 30 pairs of eyes staring at me.

How would you feel when a teacher puts you on the spot in this kind of situation? My mind went blank. My heart started racing.

I kept quiet. I started hearing giggles in the classroom. And then tears ran down my cheek. That was the first time I felt the fear of speaking in front of others, the first time I felt the fear of public speaking.

Fast-forward a few years, I was at college here in America. That fear still stuck with me. It was as though, it was part of my soul.

Now when I was little, I had many other fears. I was afraid of the dark, the monsters under my bed, the cockroaches. And I don’t mean the tiny cockroaches here but the big flying cockroaches I had back home in Pakistan and Tanzania.

But I outgrew these fears. I overcame them as I grew older. But public speaking? No way. I was still afraid of it.

But I decided enough was enough. I decided to do something about it, to take that step and find a solution. And so I went to the one place on the internet where we all look for solution to our problems: Google.

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I searched on Google: how to overcome the fear of public speaking?

The first link told me about the great things I could be if I overcame this fear. Sound like a leader. Get a great job. Share your ideas. Give a TED talk. Change the world.

The second link showed me all the different ways I could overcome this fear: hire a speech coach; talk in front of the mirror; do online courses; attend public speaking clubs like Toastmasters. That’s when I realized that I had it wrong all this time.

I thought you are either born a public speaker or you’re not. I was wrong. I realized that public speaking is actually a teachable skill. That means that if any one of you here wants to speak powerfully, like any of your famous public speakers, yes you can .We all can.

Now some of these solutions worked for me, others not so much, like hiring a speech coach, that was outside of my student budget. But online courses, that’s where I learned how to vary my tone up and down, how to talk really really fast that I could get someone’s excited, or to slow right down to get someone’s attention.

And I practiced. I practiced in front of the mirror. At least that’s where I had one friend who thought I was good.

As for the public speaking club Toastmasters, that was fantastic. I got to go in front of others and I got feedback on what I did good and what I did bad. So I did all these things.

And I realized that first, I was trapped in this cold dark hole where the fear of public speaking haunted at me. It pulled me down and over here was this promise of sunshine of green pastures, no anxiety but the path from here to here was all over the place. I had to do all these things and I thought to myself there had to be one simpler way.

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There had to be one way that I could go from here and leap to here. So I went back to Google, the source of all wisdom, did some research. And I started learning and reading a lot about artificial intelligence, about these personal assistants we have in our pocket, like Siri, Alexa who understand what we’re saying.

“Hey Siri, what’s the next meeting I have?

[Siri: Here’s your meeting]

They understand what we say. What if they could also understand how you’re saying something and analyze your voice. What if they could be your speech coaches?

What if every single person in the world anywhere had their own personal on-demand speech coach? Can you imagine a world where anyone has this help to help them overcome this fear of public speaking, to help them speak powerfully, to help them share their ideas?

That’s the idea that got us started. That’s the idea that helped us create Orai, Oral AI — a mobile app that counts your ums and ahs, a mobile app that gives you personalized lessons, a place to practice them quietly in privacy, and an app that gives you instant feedback using artificial intelligence.

Now a year and a half ago, when my roommate and I started building this, we were no experts. All we knew is that we want to build something, we want to create a solution. We were no speech coaches, we were not public speakers, we were no data scientists. But we had the power of the Internet.

So we read bunch of research papers on computational linguistics. We spoke with hundreds of speech coaches trying to understand how they give feedback on their speech. We watched videos on machine learning and artificial intelligence so that we could codify all these things and create this app.

Because we believe that we can use technology to help people become better versions of ourselves. And the reason I’m sharing my story with you guys today is not to tell you guys go out and build apps or be entrepreneurs.

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I’m saying go out and face your fears. Don’t bury them deep inside. If you have a problem, look for a solution. If nothing exists, create that solution.

If you don’t have the skills, go to Google, find how you can improve your knowledge and create something.

For me, it all started when I was little. That first time I felt the fear of public speaking. That’s what empowered me to act. That’s what empowered me to go on this journey of becoming a better speaker.

And this journey is never ending. You will never see the finish line. In fact, there is no finish line in public speaking. You can always get better.

Remember that. You can always become a better speaker. You only stop if you tell yourself you’re good enough.

Thank you.

By the way, I was recording my speech. Let’s see what feedback Orai gives. So I had a few filler words, like you know, and um. My pace – OK, 107 words per minute, not too bad, good energy, and then some feedback Orai is giving, almost perfect.

I think I need to practice a little bit more and it’s saying looks like you’ll be hosting a TED talk at no time. And my speech varity A plus and my transcript and I can even play back my audio and listen to itself. Check it out.

Resources for Further Reading:

Megan Washington: Why I Live in Mortal Dread of Public Speaking (Full Transcript)

Dananjaya Hettiarachchi at World Champion of Public Speaking 2014 Speech (Full Transcript)

Importance of Public Speaking: Mariam Hayrapetyan at TEDxYouth@Stepanavan (Transcript)

The Surprising Secret to Speaking With Confidence by Caroline Goyder (Full Transcript)