So I have a confession – I am terrified of public speaking.
Yes, I said it. I am terrified of public speaking. The thought of people staring at me while I’m talking/presenting terrifies me.
Wait. You’re a teacher, right? That’s what I hear a lot when I say this. And yes, I am a teacher. But kids, I don’t know. It is so much easier talking to kids. They don’t know what you’re talking about, usually there are lessons already created (by yourself, by others, etc). I don’t know, it’s so different when you’re talking to kids. You are that expert. But peers, people my own age and older?!? Um, no. Another one I get – you used to perform on stage in front of hundreds of people! I was playing a character, practiced it ad nauseum, and the theater was dark. It worked somehow.
Back in high school we had to do public speaking. I think it was sophomore year. I will never forget this. I cried. I was so terrified about speaking that I literally cried. And I NEVER cried usually. My teacher was kind enough to let me have just a couple of friends stay after school with me as my audience, and I made it through, but oh man, it was rough.
Freshman year of college was the same way (or maybe it was sophomore year… but I digress….). I had a 8am public speaking class. 8 freaking AM. If I remember, I did that by choice, hoping few people would actually be willing to sign up for that early. But nope, full class. I told the TA (law student guy) that I was petrified of public speaking. He was kind, understanding, and got me through it. I think that was one of my few A’s at U of I, honestly…. I got through it, but yeah, no confidence whatsoever.
I have the same issue with performance anxiety as a musician. I can play, but if I have a solo, I can’t do it. I’m too terrified I’ll squeak or crack or do something, and yeah, I’m all alone out there if I do. So, yeah. This has been a long-standing fear.
I’ve been trying to analyze my fear. I know it’s a common fear people have. 75% of people, according to statisticsbrain.com (and others), have this fear. I believe it.
My fear stems from people thinking I’m stupid or boring (the music thing is a whole other fear so we’ll focus on speaking for now). Now, to be fair, I never have done the most exciting topics for public speaking. Things like weather, for instance, was a go-to. Yeah, weather. Bor–ring. Also feeling like I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ve never been a “subject matter expert” on things really.
I did my first conference presentation in 2013. It was at the Kappa Delta Pi Conference. I actually presented with another person. She was one of those more confident people. She did a lot of the work (not for me lack of trying, it was just her thing), and she did a lot of the talking at the presentation. I got the credit for being a presenter, but I definitely didn’t do a ton.
My first time stepping in front of a group of Sigma Alpha Iota chapter girls was just a mess. I was supposed to speak on hazing, and other issues I had seen during my chapter visit. Those first talks were just not up to snuff. Talking in front of those college girls just made me anxious for days before I met with them. Now, to be fair, I have come a long way in 6 years. I have my hazing speech down to a science “Don’t do it! I don’t want to deal with the paperwork!”, and yes, I have gotten better at addressing whole chapters, but that took 6. Whole. Years.
This fall I delved into presenting again. I presented at the Missouri GAFE Summit. Again, this was something that filled me with dread. Not that I would know anyone going to my session, but the fact that I might look or sound stupid, that I wasn’t giving any information that people wanted, etc., just terrified me so.
Yet I keep going. Tomorrow I’m giving not one but two presentations! Luckily on the same topic, but they tagged me twice!!! Oy. I”m trying not to be anxious, I used my Google Chromecast and actually practiced what I might say during my presentation a couple times now. I have a decent 40ish minute presentation. But I’m so worried people will think it is dumb or lame or whatnot.
I know I’m not alone out there. This is a thing. But, it’s a thing I need to get over if I’m ever going to be like my library heroes. If I’m ever going to go far with my career beyond my library’s four walls. So I’ll keep going up there, because maybe someday, somehow, I’ll stop thinking of presenting as my greatest fear.