Public speaking is probably one of the biggest fears of all of us here, and statistically speaking, about 75% of the population has glossophobia.
I’m a firm believer that to conquer your fears; you should not face the battle head-on. You should take tiny steps that will help you overcome it.
However, when it comes to public speaking, I am doomed. I’ve been trying to overcome this fear all my life, and I conquered my fear of the depths faster than it.
About three weeks ago, our Learning Manager asked me to speak in front of our new colleagues as part of their orientation program. I was told that I only need to explain what are the functions of our department.
I was like, easy peasy. Presenting something you know by heart is not an issue. It’s like telling stories you have told so many times. No big deal.
One day before the orientation, I created a very visually appealing presentation. At least if I choke, they might not notice because I could point the slide and divert their attention.
I mentally practiced what I wanted to say. Of course, I could not tell exactly everything that we do at work. I have to choose the most basic, and I need to simplify the terms for ease of understanding as most of the attendees in the orientation are junior staff. I also thought of the possible punch lines that would appeal to them not to fall asleep during my talk. And before I realized it, my mental practice kept me awake until two in the morning.
I was due to talk at 11:15 the following day. However, due to the extension of some of the other speakers, my time moved to 11:45. By 11:30, I entered the training room, and the Front Office Manager and Executive Housekeeper were still doing their presentation. I took a seat at the back and started playing with the swiveling chair as I repeated the lines in my head. My legs were restless, and my palms were freezing.
When the Learning Manager introduced me, I stood in front of the audience and was immediately overwhelmed. Fifteen people were looking at me, waiting for me to talk. I knew there were many attendees (15 is a lot to me), but it didn’t daunt me until the time I stood in front of them.
I wanted my talk to be memorable, in a good way. Who doesn’t? I always believed that when we have the chance to communicate to an audience, whether written or verbal, we must create an impact, no matter how little it is, that they can take with them and remember you by.
I brought two chocolate bars with me for a giveaway. I wanted my talk to be fun and interactive. I want them to listen to me to whatever few things I had to say.
The talk was good. The audience all looked at me when I spoke but whether they were listening was another story. Some were very attentive and interactive, which made me happy. I only had fifteen minutes to speak, but actually, it took me thirty minutes. I only had five slides, of which one is the title slide, two content slides, one slide for a question, and another for an answer. And it took me an unbelievable thirty minutes.
When I left the training room, I suddenly felt the butterflies fluttering inside my stomach. I hadn’t had spasms for a long time. I tried to get over it by drinking a lot of warm water. But the butterflies didn’t leave me until the next day.
After two weeks, I was asked to speak for another orientation. This time, there were only five attendees. I used the same slides. I didn’t bring chocolates anymore because I thought it’s not that hard to get the attention of five people compared to fifteen. I sat on the same swiveling chair and thought about how I’d start.
When I started speaking, it was seamless. I could hear myself talking, and I knew I was making sense. I knew by the reaction of the five people listening to me that they are getting the message I was imparting them.
This time, it was just 15 minutes. My head was clear throughout, I wasn’t as blurred as the last time, and the butterflies didn’t visit me. But then I kept telling myself that I forgot to say some things, that I should have remembered that, and why did I forget about it? And then I asked myself, why am I beating myself so severely?
To be able to find solutions to problems, one must understand what causes the issue, so I listed down the reasons that makes me fear public speaking:
- I’m afraid of mistakes and embarrassing myself in public.
- I’m worried I’m not good enough.
- I’m so scared that nobody will listen to me.
- I am timid and nervous all the time.
So there you go. What’s my solution now?
After analyzing what I have listed, the first thing that I have to do is to be a bit nicer to myself. Give myself the credits I am due for and believe in my capabilities. However, as for the last part, I cannot do much with my nerves but give myself some time to get used to it, if it will ever be.
I have to accept that it’s okay to make mistakes, mispronounce some words, and forget some things because it is normal.
I am not saying that this is the sole solution to this fear. But I’ll take this as the first step – to believe in myself before anything else.