I Hate Public Speaking

I HATE Public Speaking. A large part of my job is to give presentations. 60-90 mins presentations. Sometimes it could be in front of 10 people, or as many as 60. I accepted the job so I could meet people and do trade shows. The job has changed over time and the presentation part is critical to the success of my job and department.

For the first time in a long time, I can say I love my job. I really like the team. Sure, every job has peaks and valleys, and maybe right now, I could be at the peak. However, one to three times a month when I do presentations, no doubt those days are the valleys. I do the presentations but that doesn’t mean I like to do them. I have a really supportive team that backs me up if I trip up on someone’s question. The team setting I work in is why I like the job so much.

So, why do I dislike public speaking so much? I honestly think its because I don’t know the topic very well. I’ve only been in this department for 9 months. Once I know the topic, I’m sure I will feel better.

What do I feel when I start the presentation. START? WHEN I START? I actually start stressing about it a good full week or two before the presentation date. The day of, or minutes before… SHEER PANIC sets in. Full-on Sweats. My heart feels like it is going to jump out of my chest. Shortness of breath. My hands shake. It is not a pleasant feeling. I have literally gone to the restroom and smacked myself and told myself to “GET MY SHIT TOGETHER”! Oddly enough, that actually helped.

I Hate Public Speaking part 2

It has taken a few presentations for me to realize that my heart IS NOT going to jump out of my chest, and the audience IS NOT sitting in their underwear. What if I screw up? So What? The likelihood that I ever see these people again is pretty low. If I do screw up, maybe I can crack a joke about it. I would prefer getting a couple of laughs than hearing crickets. So, what do I do to overcome this panic attack? Well, simply put, take a deep breath, and just do it.

I Hate Public Speaking Part 2

I hate public speaking…

That’s Dad Stuff @thatsdadstuff

I think 99% of people can relate to this.  Not just presentation but even a heavy meeting or key conversation.  I get knots in my stomach when the subject matter is not in my wheelhouse. 

One technique (when possible) is to have an expert to either call upon in the back of the room or refer people to when I feel a question is over my head. There’s nothing worse than that 2.4-second hesitation before answering that lets everyone in the room know that I’m guessing!  I find it much more humble and respectful to refer the question out or promise to research and get back to them with the answer. Sadly 1 out of 10 people in the audience will try to stump you just to stump you because it somehow makes them feel superior to see you on the ropes.  That’s another article altogether!

Don’t let them see you sweat.  Some people start off by admitting they are new to the job and not fully up to speed yet.  I find this starts the conversation from a place of weakness and dilutes the remainder of the things that comes out of their mouths.  I don’t think an apology is required, especially after all the preparations that have gone into your performance.  Own what you know and embrace what you don’t know.  The audience will respect that more than an apology that makes them want to run for the door for wasting their time.

Another technique I find helpful is to put on a persona.  For the 60 -90 minutes of the event, I put myself in the mindset of a performer, ACTING like a social person who can command a room.  Its a subtle mindset shift but its helps me fight back the insecure voice in my head that says I’m gonna fail and grants myself permission to be someone else for 60-90 minutes…to emulate the best speakers I’ve seen (Ted talkers etc…).   When I do this I stand taller, my voice projects further and I show confidence where I would otherwise show a bit timid.

Another technique I’ve found helpful is recording myself (audio is good, but a video is better).  I did this for the first time recently and listened to myself in the commute home.  It allowed me to hear myself from the recipient’s point of view and I make mental notes about the pace of my words, the clarity of my message and overall tone.  For me, the biggest takeaway was realizing how much I was saying “umm”.   A totally obvious rookie mistake that I was doing subconsciously and now I’m more mindful about it.  

Lastly, if you have someone you trust to give you brutally honest feedback, have them sit in the audience and take notes on your performance.  This serves two purposes.  1) You’ll be continuously improving your skills with objective feedback     2) You’ll feel comforted knowing that there is someone else in the room who is invested in your success, and at least 1 person not judging you for missteps because they know you’re in test-mode.  

I Hate Public Speaking part 1