Talking to new people has never been my strong suit, but over the years I’ve become more comfortable meeting strangers just by practicing. I still get jittery right before introducing myself to others but one thing that still causes me to panic is public speaking. Every time I hear the word ‘presentation’ or ‘speech’, I feel my insides collapse and beg for mercy. I detest not only the countless pairs of eyes fixed on me, judging, but just the thought of giving a speech. So how do I combat this rival? Is it even possible to overcome this?
Feeling like this is normal and many, many people go through it as well. The fear can manifest from a sour experience, or it can even be genetic. It can also be the product of other phobias, such as phobias for judgement, rejection, and embarrassment, while for some the fear may be irrational. This can spring up when giving a presentation in school or at work, at competitions, or simply speaking to other colleagues, teachers, and strangers. When speaking, you may feel anxious, uneasy, sweaty, nauseous, and you may start trembling. When all of these symptoms start to stack up, you can easily get overwhelmed. You’re trying to focus on the task at hand but you’re battling all of these other factors at the same time, which can cause a sense of internal chaos. The challenge is to reduce the extent of these reactions to help smoothly deliver a speech. Trying to overcome this fear (or any) can take a lot of work, perseverance, and practice, so it is vital that you do not give up. The biggest jump is when making that first active attempt to conquer your fear, but don’t let that hold you back. Every attempt, whether or not it yields good results, is a step taken to better yourself. And that is all that matters.
When I was 15, I took part in a Model United Nations conference for the sole purpose of trying to better my public speaking skills. On the first day, we had to give an introductory speech. This (and every other speech) is what made me fear the entire conference. As I made my way up to the podium, I wasn’t able to form coherent thoughts and I completely forgot my opening line. My entire body was shaking and I wasn’t able to look up at the audience even once. However, I tried my best not to back down. I kept giving as many speeches as I could, with each time, the experience was less intimidating. Looking back on the experience, I can’t help but feel proud of myself for simply making an effort. I’d like to share a few of the tactics I used to try to help you become more comfortable with giving speeches.
Have a mantra
It might help to have a type of mantra or routine to let your brain know that you are doing okay. Think about when you feel most relaxed during your day-to-day life. It could also help you zone out, something that takes up all of your attention and effectively make you forget about an upcoming speech. Take that and do the exact same thing right before speaking. It could be absolutely anything, a phrase, a little dance routine, or singing a song. I always play a specific song (girls-girl in red) on my air-piano before heading up. Keep trying out different things until one works its magic.
Try to get rid of excess energy while speaking. This can be hard to do at times but something that works for me is moving my feet or hands about. It can help you think clearly and respond better to slip-ups and questions. You could try to walk around the stage if that’s your game. But the bottom line is: let go of some of the pressure that’s built up.
Push yourself to speak first
Public speaking on its own may cause a panic, so speaking first amongst a group of speakers may add fuel to the fire. But no matter how daunting it may seem to speak first, doing so helps you boost your confidence and comfort by a larger amount. You would require yourself to gather up extra courage to give the same speech, which could make giving speeches, in the long run, feel easier.
Not Just Practice
Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve studied your material, when it comes to giving your speech in front of an audience, you could still freak out. This still happens to me once in a while, and the only way I’ve found to combat this is to get used to an audience. This can be done by actively seeking out opportunities to put yourself in the spotlight. This may cause frequent swarms of butterflies to appear in your stomach, but after a bit, they’ll find somewhere else to live. But make sure you keep practicing. If you give a speech once and stop for a while, you might find it harder to effectively improve. Getting used to the atmosphere around speaking publicly is like getting new shoes. You have to break them in. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll open yourself up to many more opportunities.
Conquering this fear isn’t a small feat. Even taking the tiniest step towards overcoming it can take a lot of effort and energy. Public speaking still scares me, and I don’t think it will stop scaring me for a long time, but I don’t want to let that discourage me. And this shouldn’t discourage you either. It's the fact that there’s still a long journey ahead that should push you to reach the end. Every little step, from walking confidently to simply saying the first sentence of your speech comfortably, is an amazing accomplishment that should always be celebrated, no matter where you are in your journey.
Good Luck! I know you can do it. :)
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.