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KrystaElyse's avatar

Does anyone here have a fear of public speaking?

Asked by KrystaElyse (3598points) March 6th, 2009

I started to regularly attend Toastmasters meetings locally every Friday to help me improve my public speaking skills.

This morning I was chosen to speak for table topics, which you are given a topic at random and you must give an impromptu speech on that topic. I was EXTREMELY nervous because it was my first time being called up and i’m horrible at making things up on the spot. The topic was “If your job required you to move to India for a year, what steps would you take to adjust to living in a place where you haven’t lived before.” or something along those lines. Anyway, it seemed like an easy topic and in my head I had everything I wanted to say, yet everything that came out of my mouth was jumbled up and of course I started to panic. To top it off, there’s someone who rings a bell everytime you say words such as “um” or “like”, which is helpful, but it made me even more nervous.

Anyway, my question to you all is, do you have a fear of public speaking? If you do, have you taken steps to get over that fear? Have you been successful in getting over it in the past? Do you have any tips you would like to share that helped you?

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21 Answers

willbrawn's avatar

I actually enjoy it. Being a thespian I guess I over came any fear by having to do it over and over again.

bythebay's avatar

Where’s Jeruba – we just chatted about this? She has great insight.

eponymoushipster's avatar

Initially, i was nervous. But now i can do it (and do do it) with relative ease – at the very least, i’ve learned to manage the nervousness. it requires time and effort though.

if you can practice, do so. Practice in front of a mirror, record yourself if you want. Practice breathing, so that allyourwordsdon’truntogether.

Remember, too, that good gestures flow naturally; forced gestures are very obvious. A person will actually gesture slightly BEFORE they say what the gesture relates to – they’re thinking about what they’re gesturing/speaking about already – whereas “fake” gestures come AFTER a person has said something, as if your brain is going “OH! gesture – we said something.”

EmpressPixie's avatar

Public speaking makes me incredibly nervous and jittery, whenever I leave the stage or whatever I am literally shaking. But I love it! I just usually have to work that energy off after, I get excited beforehand and jazzed and ready to go.

The thing that I think of whenever I have to speak in public, if I need to calm down, is the worst situation I’ve done it in (at my conservative college, as president of the GSA I spoke during orientation about the GSA). Then I pretty much think, “Well, I got through that just fine. I’ll get through this just fine. I mean, these people actually want to hear me…”

DrBill's avatar

I love public speaking, but I been teaching too long not to.

theladebug's avatar

I do! I have to prepare a persuasive speech to get my degree (Im within a year of completing it, so I need to start doing this soon, but I’m TERRIFIED TO DO IT.) Ironically enough I’ve done tons of software and applications training and have no problem teaching groups technical information, but for whatever reason this persuasive speech is messing with my head. Whenever I have speak to groups (without a computer to hide behind) I end up stumbling over my words, stuttering and sometimes literally shaking. I’d love to hear pointers from someone who has overcome a fear of speaking.

wundayatta's avatar

@KrystaElyse: so what did you end up saying? How long did you have to speak for? Have you ever been to a country where they don’t speak your language?

Also, what does Toastmasters teach you about how to do these impromptu speeches?

I generally find that I get amped up before talking to a group of people, especially if I don’t know them or the situation. It’s a kind of anxiety that definitely makes me sweat. Usually, once I start, I do better, and if I can get them laughing, I feel more comfortable.

The key, of course, is preparation: knowing your subject. I see a lot of presentations, and I’ve noticed something weird. There are subjects where people give a talk (i.e., they have some powerpoint illustrations, and maybe a couple of subject headings, but otherwise they talk about it). I thought this was the normal way of doing things, but recently I’ve been to presentations where people just read their papers! I was shocked, and disturbed. I asked someone from the department, and they told me this was SOP. Too weird for me.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@daloon: Paper reading is an honored tradition for history presentations at the big academic to-do at my University. I love my friends. They write great papers. I did not listen to ONE of them read them. Because seriously? I could read them later. Or, you know, ask them what it said and they could tell me in a far more interesting fashion. Writing and speaking are not always interchangeable in an enjoyable way.

TheKNYHT's avatar

Just read Daloons answer:

Quite right! When I took Communications in college, one of the biggies was: KNOW your subject! Be so conversant in the material, and your views of that material, that you don’t have to think about what your saying, you simply keep the material in the forefront of your cognitive mind. In being so focused, it alleviates the nervous tenstion and anxiety one might feel with all the “what if’s” and the many potentional blunders one could make.
If you’re ‘into’ your subject matter, that involvement can be contagious, so that soon your audience is ‘into’ it as well; thats a very powerful bond between speaker and audience, and one does well to take full advantage of that. Its what makes the most dynamic speakers different from the mediocre ones.
Oh! And I’m never nervous when I’m doing a speaking engagement: before hand? butterfly central in my belly! But that kind of nervousness can be good because it keeps you sharp. Once I get up there, take a couple deep breaths, and become comfortably relaxed among the audience, the gears start turning, and I come out of the starting gate at a full trot, then gallop!

KrystaElyse's avatar

@daloon – I ended up saying “Well, first I would check online and see if there’s classes or books available to help me learn the language. Also, I would consult travel guide books and other resources to look up what things are available in the area I would be living in. Then I would try to secure living arrangements, either an apartment or at a hotel for just a while until I find an apartment.” Something along those lines. But while I said all of that, I used “um” about a billion times. Haha. You can’t go over three minutes I believe. I spoke for about 2 minutes. I’ve been in two countries before where not everyone knew how to speak English – Italy and Belgium.

A lot of people came up to me at the end of the meeting and said I did a good job and that it’s one of the hardest things to do. They also told me that if I didn’t know enough about the topic I was given, somehow transition into a topic that I know to make it easier to speak. But of course, me being a newbie, I didn’t really think of that.

Mr_M's avatar

In my line of work, I have to give speeches. I can do meetings without problem or “script”, but when I have to stand in front of a room, especially behind a podium, I NEVER get over the fear and anxiety. There’s no way I could do something like that with short notice and, no matter how much I practice, my brain WILL freeze up the day of the speech and I’ll need my notes. I’ll use my notes from the very beginning of my speech because, if I don’t, if I need the notes midway through the speech I’ll NEVER find where exactly I’m at and the “flop sweat” will start.

Sometimes politics mandates that I say certain things in certain ways (with the boss listening to make sure you do). Usually, in these cases, to say one word differently could change the entire shape of the speech. Those are real tough.

My hats are off to people like Governor Patterson who does EVERY speech from memory, no notes. I could NEVER do that.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Mr_M do you use a manuscript all the time or an outline?

Mr_M's avatar

A manuscript broken down in short paragraphs, numbered with maybe a keyword(s) highlighted.

Another thing I left out; if I know I have to give a speech, say, next week, that’s really all I think about until next week.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Mr_M are you required to do that because you have to say something specific all the time? because i prefer an outline, and if i have a specific phrase or wording i need, i’ll write that out under one of my bullets.

Mr_M's avatar

Can’t do an outline. Get anxious worrying about forgetting what I’m supposed to say. Anxiety makes mind goes blank. Need everything I have to say in front of me.

I HAVE mastered the art of looking at the audience while I read.

Trustinglife's avatar

I’ve been to Toastmasters, and I highly recommend an alternative: Speaking Circles.

Speaking Circles is a much warmer, friendlier environment where the whole thing is based on getting over your fear of public speaking. The method? Learning to speak to one person at a time, rather than to a “crowd.” I find when I remember to do that, I connect more strongly with the people I’m talking to, AND to my material. Check out that link for local groups.

targetintellect's avatar


You have two options when you are afraid of public speaking:

1) Learn to love it by doing it so often and in various different settings that you eventually lose the fear. For example, I used to be a teacher; so I was constantly presenting before high-school students. Also, I was consulting on the side; so I joined a Business Network International where we had to get up and speak every week. As a result, speaking becomes easy.

It’s not always feasible to continually put oneself in the limelight; so . . .

2) Learn to veil the nerves. Accept that you have them, but know that nobody will notice. One way, for example is to stop the shaky hands buy simply holding a heavy padfolio under your notes.

Ringing a bell each time someone says “ummm” and “ahh” will only make the person more nervous, and in most cases they will say it more. Suggest to your Toastmasters using a SILENT count. They can let you know afterwards.

Here is how to stop ummms and ahhs:

1) Don’t bother trying to stop umming and ahhhing in your presentation. You will say them more.

2) Instead, always endeavor to stop saying them in your everyday conversations. It’s a long-term, pain-in-the-butt commitment that will yield you rich returns in public speaking and one-on-one communication. It’s this simple: Stop the filler in your daily talk, and it will cease to happen when you’re under pressure.

Here is an instructional video that I’ve done to provide tips for speaking under pressure:

By the way, would somebody show me how you can place a link in but make it appear as a word?


Trustinglife's avatar

Great ideas, @targetintellect. You can add a link to appear as a word by…

Putting the word you want to use in quotes, like this: “Google”
Then add a colon :
Then add the link you want to use

Put it all together: Google. You can see what it looks like directly beneath this yellow text box. Welcome to Fluther!

KrystaElyse's avatar

@targetintellect Thank you for taking the time to share those great tips! I will definitely try them out :)

targetintellect's avatar

@Trustinglife thanks so much for this great advice and your clear break down of the process. Will this work on all blogs or only Fluther? I’m going to try it out right now to see if it works

Much obliged!!


Trustinglife's avatar

As far as I know, that’s just the protocol for Fluther.

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