Gulp…Fear of Public Speaking

This year, I am going to unwillingly address my fear of public speaking.  This is a challenge I’ve taken on and off in the past but no matter how often I practice, it’s never going to be a favorite activity.  My speaking stint is minor and not a big deal for anyone who’s even slightly comfortable with public speaking but I don’t even like leading large meetings.  I think it’s a combination of little practice and the difficulty of having a softer voice that doesn’t project authority.

For this particular work event, I’ve taken on a bigger role and this includes some time in front of a microphone.    I do believe that people who are good at public speaking tend to fare better in the work arena, so it’s probably good for my image to do this.  However, I am under no illusion that this will translate to a larger salary or title, as I have had periodic moments in the spotlight and I think my “image” at this company is pretty set.

I plan to have a general outline of what to say but also “wing it”, which seems counter-intuitive for someone with stage fright.  However this method has worked for me in the past.  If I have a script in my head, I actually get more nervous; I rather speak naturally.  I have also noticed that one of the most best speakers at our company isn’t afraid to stumble a bit or pause to find the right words.   In other words, just having confidence goes a long way.

Do you fear public speaking? Any useful advice on how to tackle this common fear?  

Side note: I honestly don’t know how people can easily give speeches at weddings or funerals.  I think those situations would be easier than a work function but I really don’t like it when all eyes / ears are upon me.


5 responses to “Gulp…Fear of Public Speaking

  1. I usually take your approach: Know my topic and the specific points I want to make, and then just go with it. If you can come up with an anecdote–it doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud funny, just mildly amusing–connected to your topic, it can be a good lead-in for both you and the audience.

    Always remember: you are not a stand-up comic facing a sea of drunken hecklers (I assume!). The people who are listening to you are predisposed to be favorable. If you say *one thing* they like, they’ll probably like your whole presentation.

    And I say this as someone who, in the 9th grade, literally blacked out, standing up, at a podium when I had to read something I had written down. But that girl is a lifetime ago.

  2. The more you do it and the more you practice, the easier it gets. I went from terrified to enjoying it through the course of graduate school. (Five years of having to give at least 2 talks every semester, often more, to very demanding audiences… no public speaking has been quite as scary since.)

    I’m good with powerpoints– the bullets remind me what I’m going to say. I also don’t do well with full scripts because I sound stilted.

    • Very true about practice! There was a time that I had to do speeches more often and I got less intimidated. Now that it’s been a while, I’ve regressed a bit on this one.

  3. Best of luck! I am sure you will do a great job. I have had to address small groups etc and always had butterflies, but I figure that is normal. My tips would be to know your topic, rehearse and go over it roughly in your head a few times, dot points on a card and as stupid as it sounds wear something that you feel good in on the day. I bet after you have done it you will feel great!

    • Thanks. I like the suggestion of wearing something that I feel good in — both professional, polished and comfortable.

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