(Allow me to diverge from the beaten path for a moment and write not on writing, but speaking…)
One of the greatest mysteries of my life is my fear of public speaking. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know how I got it. I don’t know why it decided to warp my mind, quicken my heart, tighten my throat or wreak havoc on my (once steady) voice. It’s a horrible fear to have.
And yet, most people consider speaking in public worse than death.
Why is that?
Well, apparently *does some quick internet searches* this fear has ancient roots (so ancient why doesn’t it just wither and die already!). Scientists believe it stems from our fear of being out in the open, our fear of being exposed, and our fear of being judged… but mostly about our fear of being judged. No one likes being judged, having all eyes on you picking apart every minute detail of your life and (possibly) having those details being used against you. It’s not a fun experience.
But most of the time, it doesn’t happen. Yes, you may make stumble on some words or run out of breath at an awkward place, but most of the time, people are too wrapped up in their own lives to care if you slip up on a word or two.
Sure, there are some people who will actually judge you, but those people are mean. Don’t listen to them.
But most people will hear the mistake and then sum it up as just that – a mistake. People are not perfect. It’s a fact of nature. Nerves will get to you and, most likely, you will stumble. But should it bother you? No. Heck, the best speakers (comedians, presidents, professors) stumbled a bit when they first started out. Expect it, but don’t be freaked out by it.
There are some things that help you along the way.
1) Don’t Listen to the Crazy Thought Spiral – I’m going to forget everything or my voice will get stuck in my throat, but I took drama in high school for goodness sake and torchbearers and have read in public before so why am I so nervous because I can’t be nervous but I am nervous. ß This crazy thought spiral will only make you more nervous. And crazy. Therefore, it doesn’t work. Think of the times you did well and dwell on that (for example, I gave a presentation in a Shakespeare class that I greatly enjoyed… and the drama performances in high school went over quite well… which leads me to my next point)
2) Prepare – for me, that means practicing. Yes, practicing. Rehearsing. Reading it out loud to anyone who will listen. I do it all the time, my family and friends know when I have a big thing coming up because I ask them to listen to me (that Shakespeare presentation? Practiced it at least ten times. Those drama performances? A month… but that was special because we had to learn everyone else’s lines too, basically, and the blocking. But still. Practiced!) Practicing helps me because it allows me to get familiar with what I’m going to say. If I’m familiar with it, I’m more comfortable. Now, it doesn’t work for everyone. For some people, the act of practicing makes them nervous rather than comfortable. (If you’re one of these people, you’re probably better at ‘on the fly’ things. I’m securely fastened in not that category.) Go over the speech once, or bullet point the important parts, and move onto something different to keep your mind occupied. The point is – find what works best for you to prepare – practicing the whole speech, bullet pointing the key aspects, or not practicing at all
3) Chill out – This one is the hardest for me to accomplish, but it’s crucial. Yes, you’re going to be speaking in public. Yes, you’ll be nervous. (Okay, so maybe not, but I am always nervous.) But you also have to be confident in yourself. Give yourself some credit. Allow your future self the liberty of messing up without the judgment. Think that you’ll do an AWESOME job… and then do the best you possibly can! Afterwards you can have some cookies to celebrate! (Or wine, or tea, or some good TV, or hanging out with friends, family, pets, a good book… you fill in your own form of celebration.) After it’s all said and done, that’s one more feather in your speaking hat and one more chance to get more comfortable doing it.
So why have I decided to suddenly foray into this crazy world of speaking? Well tomorrow is the inaugural meeting of The Living Room:
It’s an event I helped create (along with three other fabulous women!) based on Sitka’s Writer’s Read. I’m quite excited about it, about how it will fare in our little community. I think it’ll do well. And yes, there will be cookies. For free! (Shamless plug – check out our website and Facebook page for more information – The Living Room website and Facebook page.)
Oh, and yes, I’m reading.
And yes, I will do AWESOME. (Or so I will make myself believe, until my reading is done.)
Wish me luck and come listen if you’re in the Eagle River area!