When I was in high school, I was terrified of speaking in public. I avoided it and deliberately chose not to take any group leadership roles for fear I would have to speak in front of a group of people.
So when I discovered I had to present a character study in my Great Books class, I worried for weeks. I slept poorly, ate little, and obsessed over my talk.
I tried all kinds of strategies to prepare for the talk, practicing in front of the mirror, in front of my dog, and re-reading the book multiple times.
Nothing seemed to help. I continued to stress and forget what I had prepared for my presentation.
And it finally occurred to me the way I could get over the fear of speaking in front of my class: wear something that made me feel comfortable.
Which is why I gave my talk on Madame Bovary wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap and Detroit Tigers t-shirt. We weren’t allowed to wear hats in class in high school, but my teacher gave me an exception.
I have little memory of that talk now, other than wearing my favorite baseball cap. And my teacher congratulating me after my talk.
Does the thought of speaking at a local meetup, event, or conference give you a queasy feeling in your stomach? Or make you break out in a sweat? Would you rather be in the back of the room listening to someone speak?
If you want to hear a more recent personal story about overcoming the fear of public speaking, I recommend you read the two posts my friend Jacki Keys published (sadly, as of January 1, 2020, the posts have been deleted).
Jacki shared personal insights about speaking for the first time, sharing your perspective, and tips for first time speakers for overcoming your fear of public speaking.
She talked about how she prepared for the talk, what she drew inspiration from, and how to handle questions from the audience when you don’t feel like you’re an expert on a topic.
For those who don’t know the backstory, Jacki and I were co-speakers for an accessibility session at WordCamp Columbus 2014 last week. We were added to the schedule two days before the conference started.
Given the shortness of time, we had no slideshow, but created an outline for the accessibility topics we wanted to cover.
For Jacki’s first time presenting publicly, she spoke confidently, answered questions with ease, and showed no fear of public speaking.
Well done, Jacki!