I am currently very stressed. As part of a work commitment, I have a big presentation to make next month at a conference whereby I will have to stand up and speak in front of five hundred or more of my colleagues. I have always struggled with being centre stage, whilst at school I suffered from countless bouts of anxiety whenever I was faced with the prospect of public speaking. I became dizzy, sick and I was unable to sleep in the upcoming days before the presentation itself. It was my determination alone that got me through it.
Now that I am older and a working woman well away from the school environment, I had thought that public speaking would come much easier to me. I have to admit that it is rather upsetting to feel so helpless.
I have done my best to be prepared, having already written my speech and edited the visual slides that accompany it. In that respect I have everything under control. But despite these efforts, my confidence about delivering the presentation remains very low.
It has crossed my mind that I could call in sick and not attend the event altogether, instead forwarding my speech and slides to somebody else. But I know I would regret it and that I will have missed an opportunity to confront my fears.
Do you have any suggestions as to what might help me in this situation?
Public speaking can be incredibly daunting. Many studies note that the fear of public speaking is experienced by twenty five percent of all people at one stage or another. So know that you are not alone. Also know that our confidence levels along with our self-belief are aspects of ourselves that tend to dip in times of stress. We all need to tend to them from time to time. You might be surprised to know that some of the biggest performers in the world, singers and actors alike, suffer from terrible bouts of stage fright and anxiety. The point being, whilst it is true that taking centre stage comes naturally to some people, it is also true that people have within them, the capacity to overcome their fears and achieve what they never thought was possible.
You have been presented with a big challenge and you should praise yourself for stepping up to it. The fact that you have written your speech already and worked out the visual slides as well, shows great conscientiousness. Without question you care about this and you want to do a great job. But it reads as though the pressure and self-doubt is getting the better of you.
There are some practical things first of all that can help boost your confidence and enable you to feel in control. The first being is to practice. I cannot convey how essential this is. Practice every day by reading through your speech aloud to yourself. Try standing up tall in front of a mirror and read through again and again. Remember that the more comfortable you are with the words the better prepared you will feel in the moment. This sense of feeling prepared also extends to the smaller details. Think about what you might like to wear, the way in which you want to stand, whether you need to use a microphone or whether you are having to project your voice. Be as prepared as you possibly can. If you are able, I would also suggest visiting the place where you are going to be speaking. If you can practice with the microphone or become accustomed to the lighting all the better. If you are unable to make it before the event, arriving early on the day to allow yourself the opportunity to become acquainted with the equipment will enable you to feel less overwhelmed and panicked.
As of now, breathing exercises each morning when you wake up will help with your feelings of anxiety that you are currently experiencing. Breathing will also be of great assistance to you whilst you are rehearsing your presentation. Take special consideration to the moments in which you will need to pause for effect or to click to a new slide. Remember to take deep breaths as you go along.
In the upcoming days to the event, stepping up on your exercise will support you in overcoming your anxiety by boosting your endorphins. It is also vital that you keep yourself hydrated and ensure that you have a glass of water by your side, particularly when on stage.
The practicalities aside, the most important thing here is to have faith in yourself. I know that it feels frustrating that you are facing a problem that you thought was well and truly in the past, but be encouraged that you are confronting your fear. I am sure that over the years there have been occasions whereby you have refrained from sharing your opinions or thoughts within a crowded setting, or that you have been reluctant to present your solutions to problems being discussed within your team. I am sure of this because the intensity of the fear that you experienced when you were younger, taught you to defend yourself from any such fear moving forwards. It is a natural, physiological response to want to protect yourself from feeling distressed or anxious. It becomes easier to instead shut down and remain quiet, or indeed as you mentioned, take a sick day to avoid the whole thing altogether.
However, if you choose to believe in yourself, this will be a defining moment, one that will empower you. It will enable you to accept that you are no longer your past self, fearful and panicked in the classroom at school. It will remind you that you have evolved and that you are a grown woman who has worked hard for this opportunity. Allow your determination to take hold, it will see you through, just as it has always done. Sometimes a big dose of determination is all that you need.
Give it your best shot Chadna. That is all that you can ask of yourself.
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