Fearful of Public Speaking?

It is not easy to be the first person in the family to go to college! I remember when I first started taking classes I did not know anyone at the school. I was also the quiet one in all my classes, and if the teacher asked me something, I would just smile, even if I did not know what they were asking me. I simply could not imagine myself talking to someone in public, not to mention talking to my instructor in front of a class of 30 students.

One term, as I was lining up classes for graduation, I realized that I needed to take a class that I had been avoiding. Just the name of it petrified me: public speaking. However, I had heard positive comments about the instructor and his work, so I told myself that it was all going to be OK. Well, it was not; at least not when I started the class! The first talk I gave, I almost fainted out of fear and storming emotions. But the instructor, used to this, found a way to interject some of his ideas and suggestions regarding my slides, so I used that “break” to breathe and that totally helped.

After I was done with the presentation I went to my desk and waited for the instructor’s comments. To my surprise, he had liked my talk and had given me a very good grade. Feeling more comfortable now and knowing that my presentation was not as bad as I had thought, my other speeches received much better comments. That was it for me; I found out that the fear was all in my head, and I had no reason to panic while speaking publicly, in fact I came to love it. Thanks to that class, and to its great instructor, I have given hundreds of talks and presentations since then.

Do you still fear public speaking?

7 thoughts on “Fearful of Public Speaking?

  1. John Dawson says:

    Well done in getting more confidence for public speaking. As you found out a lot of our obstacles around public speaking are in our head. “It’s me stopping me”.
    Can I add an extra point which may be of use?
    I teach 40 public speaking courses a year and there seems to be a secret about public speaking that shouldn’t be a secret. It is understanding blank faces.
    As a speaker if we are not careful we carry on using normal conversational skills when we are speaking to a group. When you have a standard conversation – you normally get nods, smiles, agreements back from the listener.
    However when we speak to a group ALL that changes. All you see is blank faces.
    So we start speaking to blank faces and they don’t usually smile (at least not very often) or nod their heads (some people will but again not a lot) so we are left struggling with critical thoughts about our performance. But blank faces are normal in audience – they are just listening faces.
    So try not to read people’s faces when you speak publicly because your brain will interpret any sign as negative.
    Of course there is more to getting your head around public speaking but when I teach public speaking this is the point that helps a lot of people.

  2. Bucket List Society (@bucketlistsoc) says:

    I think it’s impossible (and maybe bad) if you’re not a little nervous before speaking publicly. The adrenaline can help you concentrate and think fast.

    My #1 tip for getting over nervousness before speaking is to get on stage early. If you walk up and spend a few minutes before your speech officially begins (if you can), then you feel more at ease with the audience.

    I wrote an article about this here: http://thebucketlistsociety.com/2011/12/22/five-public-speaking-tips/ Maybe you’ll find it useful 🙂

  3. Andrew Grossman says:

    This is a great perspective. It reminded me of a post I wrote recently for students and young professionals that are challenged by the anxiety attached to public speaking and presenting. Some of the information I included via my experience in Comm 220 (Public Speaking), just like you!

    Tips: http://grossmanandrewm.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/presenting-tip-plan-to-improvise-19/

    I hope these serve you well! Tips and comments are greatly appreciated. I love a good dialogue. 🙂

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