Handling the Anxiety of Public Speaking

Public speaking makes everyone nervous. Here are some ways to handle it.

In Speaking and Nerves, Cate made interesting points about anxiety, and described several ways to reduce it before giving a talk — mostly by taking care of yourself.

Once upon a time, I did a few sessions at ToastMasters, and always made a comment about how nervous I was (which was certainly true). The nice thing about that venue is that you get feedback. The feedback I got was that I didn’t appear nervous.

That’s good to know. It means that even if I feel nervous, it’s not having any kind impact on the talk. So if I can live with it for a couple of minutes while I get into the talk, everything after that will be fine.

I also noticed that in the third talk where I mentioned it, bringing it up made me MORE nervous. In retrospect, I think that’s because it took my focus away from the message (the most important thing) and the audience, and put the attention on me — the least important part of the whole process!

I also think it took the audience’s attention away from the message — where I really want them to be focusing — and instead put their attention on me! That was the most important thing, I think, because I could feel their attention on me.

Ideally, the audience will forget about who’s delivering it and will really HEAR the message. (That’s one reason that slides are so helpful.)

Bottom line: I don’t talk about being nervous any more. I expect it. (Somehow, I never understood why an accomplished performer would be nervous before going onstage. But they do! And if they do, it makes sense that I do…)

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