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To ask for advice on public speaking?

(45 Posts)
NorthandSouth98374 Wed 20-Sep-17 22:28:46

I've recently started a job that requires a bit of public speaking. At the very most I would have the opportunity to speak to around 60 people. I don't have to say anything, but often there are points that are unclear which I could clarify but I'm too scared to speak. I whip myself into a panic, my mouth goes dry, my face beetroot and I decide it's not worth the risk of making a show of myself.

But even in smaller meetings I get the same fear. I HATE introducing myself at meetings, one of which I have on Friday and I'm already nervous about the 'would you like to say a few words to introduce yourself' moment which is inevitable.

I know people say that if I spoke it won't be as bad as I think, but it is! The very first time I spoke, about a year ago, in front of about 10 people, I was so nervous my hands were shaking and I stumbled over a few words. I hoped it has seemed worse to me than everyone else, but two of my closest, most friendly colleagues thought it was hilarious and one of them still bangs on about 'can you remember how nervous you were, we could all see your hands shaking!' I've also had comments that I sound angry or curt. I'm neither, I'm just so nervous!

Anyone got any advice? I'd happily try public speaking classes but when I Google them there are pages of professionals saying they're a waste of time. I love my job and I don't often have to speak in front of people, but I want to be able to do it and do it without feeling physically sick for hours beforehand just at the thought.

Escapepeas Wed 20-Sep-17 22:51:33

Almost no-one is a natural at public speaking. Pretty much everyone who has to do it, has to have training and/or overcome a natural aversion to it. I am not at all a natural public speaker but I've had a series of jobs where I've ended up having to do it and now I'm OK with it even if I don'tr relish it.

Find out if your company offers presentation skills or public speaking courses. If they do, take the course. I've done a few over the years and they are really helpful.

What are you presenting on? Is it really technical or specialised?

BenLui Wed 20-Sep-17 22:59:22

The key to public speaking is practice. The more you do it the better you get. You won't necessarily feel better about it but you will appear better.

Practice what you are going to say in front of a mirror over and over. Practice when alone in the car.
Record yourself and watch it back.

Always, always, always make a concious effort to speak slowly, nerves speed everyone up and you can't always hear it yourself.

If you are serious about it you need to take any and every opportunity to speak in public.

Ignore your dry mouth and shakes hands, answer anyway.

If you sound curt or angry make a conscious effort to smile - it's hard to sound angry while smiling.

Lots and lots of people don't like public speaking but it is absolutely a skill you can learn.

A friend of mine has found Toastmasters really useful for practice.

Ignore anyone who laughs at you, they aren't worth your time.


PeterBlue Wed 20-Sep-17 23:01:51

Know exactly what it is you need/want to say. Being totally on top of your brief adds to your confidence. Apart from that, it's just practice.

NorthandSouth98374 Wed 20-Sep-17 23:02:08

Thanks for the reply. It can be on a range of things but I'm never expected to be an expert on them. Oddly, if I was given, say, a book I had to read aloud I think I could do that easily, it's when my personal views or something about myself needs to be said that I get so panicked and nervous. I watch colleagues my age who joined at the same time as me speak and they do so calmly and competently, and I feel ill just at the thought.

NorthandSouth98374 Wed 20-Sep-17 23:02:55

Sorry, that was to escape.

BenLui Wed 20-Sep-17 23:03:32

North remember that just because they look calm doesn't mean that they aren't internally shaking in their boots. Fake it till you make it is very sound advice.

Labyrinthian Wed 20-Sep-17 23:03:59

Can you look up toastmasters? It's worldwide, find one near you, it's brilliant for helping you speak in public

Carolinesbeanies Wed 20-Sep-17 23:04:23

It really is just practice OP, weve all felt like that starting out. Can you find somewhere to practice? Popping into a local dementia home to read poetry standing up in the day room? Then move on to fully compus mentis elderly residents? Have you children? Can you sit a dozen kids down and tell them a story, film synopsis, anything, off the top of your head and standing up in front of them? Anywhere you could find an impromptu audience, its the standing up and telling something from start to finish.

When youre caught at work, and really have to, pick one person to look at. Not the room. Just one, either a supportive collegue or someone you may feel knows a little less than you do. Just talk to that one person. If it helps, tell them in advance that youre terribly nervous and if you look like youre staring at him her, its sheer terror!

Good luck, but theres no short cut Im sorry, just practice.

Nandostodayplease Wed 20-Sep-17 23:04:25

Beta blockers! I couldn't do my job without them!

NorthandSouth98374 Wed 20-Sep-17 23:13:23

Thank you all for your suggestions!

I've never heard of toastmasters, I'll have a look at that, thank you!

Don't have kids so can't practice on them. Interestingly though on that 'fake it till you make it' advice, I used to be terrified of walking into a pub/party and joining a group of friends or of being introduced to friends' friends in a social setting and used to always think of that saying to try and seem more confident. Now neither situation bothers me in the slightest and it's just formal meetings situations that terrify me. Maybe I should focus on that again.

Kingsclerelass Wed 20-Sep-17 23:13:40

I'd add - make sure you know your content really well. It helps with confidence.

Agree with BenLui, go slowly, because all the nerves make you speed up, without noticing.

Can your dp help? Get him to time you, do a 2 minute pres and ask him to film you. I could get the words right, but realised when I watched the film back that while I presented, I was walking in a tiny circle hmm

Get used to laughing about it at home. Try it in different personas, accents, anything to make it fun. It'll help you get started and to relax.

Good luck x

HappyGoLuckyGirl Wed 20-Sep-17 23:22:32

Propranalol. Amazing for anxiety and completely eradicated nervousness when I've given presentations.

Keep water nearby though as I get a dry mouth after taking them.

steppingout Wed 20-Sep-17 23:23:15

I had a couple of presentation coaching sessions which I found really helpful - might be worth a go? One of the things they emphasised was speed - speak a bit more slowly than you think you need to. As someone said, nerves make most people speed up. I think that's when it gets worse as well, as you end up not giving yourself enough time to breathe properly to steady yourself. It has also helped a couple of people I know to find someone who they think is a really good speaker and listen to how they present before practicing themselves.

MiraiDevant Thu 21-Sep-17 00:16:33

Thank you John for introducing me, (2,3,4), well for those of you who don't know me, (2,3), my name's North and South and I work in the IT department, (2,3,4).
I'm part of the XYZ project, (2,3,) and will be part of the Q and A session after the presentation, (2,3,4) so feel free to ask me any questions.

It helps your breathing and gives the audience time to process what you say.

PeachMelba78 Thu 21-Sep-17 00:22:36

Definitely film yourself and watch it back, and do as many speeches outside of work as you can. I used to hate public speaking but I wanted to get better at it so I joined a networking group and practised there. My first big keynote speech was to 300 managers and I was fine but I practiced loads beforehand.
Good luck!

dunderheid Thu 21-Sep-17 00:29:07

My GP prescribed propranalol for this. It's a beta blocker and helps with anxiety symptoms. I do presentations and deliver training as part of my job - I hate it. (Those aspects of it - the rest of the job I enjoy). I only got prescribed it 4 weeks ago (after many years of suffering) and I've really noticed the difference. No outward signs - the trembling and stumbling over my words, the blushing - I can still feel a bit anxious inside my head - but because I'm not concentrating on trying to cover up the physical symptoms I'm more relaxed. I've got more public speaking coming up and I'm not trying to find excuses to get out of it - or pulling a sickie like I did before blush. Don't think I'll ever actually enjoy public speaking, but I'm not agonising over it now.

dunderheid Thu 21-Sep-17 00:30:01

And yes to the dry mouth on propranalol!

LurpakIstheOnlyButter Thu 21-Sep-17 00:31:33

YouTube. Ted talks by Amy cuddy.

You can do it. You will do it

MrsTerryPratchett Thu 21-Sep-17 00:36:42

I used to be you. Now I talk for a living, was on TV last week and everyone thinks I'm not nervous at all.

Deep breathing works on blushing. Really deep in and out.

Good, brief notes.

Remember everyone is just glad it's not them.

Practice. Have a few phrases (introduce yourself is a perfect one to practice) and practice out loud.

This is a weird one. I had a friend who used to say embarrassing things to me on purpose to practice being embarrassed and living. "You're pretty" was his favorite hmm If you have a friend who could do this, it actually helped.

EBearhug Thu 21-Sep-17 01:15:24

Preparation and practice.

If your company offers any training in it, do it.

I also recommend Toastmasters - there's a series of 10 prepared speeches you work through, each one focusing on a different aspect, so for example, my next one will be the 5th one, which looks at body language. Each session also has table topics, where you talk for about 2 minutes on an unprepared topic, which I find much harder, but I can see my improvement - I am more likely to pause than go er, um... (though I still have a good few of those.)

Even if you don't join a group, the website has quite a bit of useful information - some of the guides are available to non- members. If you install the app, I find the timer useful - you can use the set times, or do a custom one, and it changes colour. A prepared speech should be 5-7 minutes, so it goes green at 5 minutes, yellow at 6 and red at 7. I don't always speak at the same rate (nerves etc), and I am getting better at having sections which are less important which I can leave out - or add in, if I'm going too fast with nerves.

Depending on what you speak on, you might have a section at the end for questions from the audience, and it might be useful to have some etra information prepared in case they're not forthcoming, and you need to fill a bit of time.

Filming it is good, too, especially for the body language stuff - you become very aware of how you wring your hands or gently rock from side to side, or only look at the people on the left...

But whichever way you get there, it's basically knowing your material and practising. It does get easier with time!

If you have the opportunity, check out the room you'll be talking in, so you get an idea of the space. And if you are presenting with slides, have a backup on a USB stick, and be prepared to adapt to speaking without it, e.g. hard copy of notes. If anything is going to go wrong, it is most likely to be the techouse, especially if it is the sort of event with different speakers from different places.

Kept practising!

(Propanolol is what finally got me through my driving test, so it's worth considering!)

EBearhug Thu 21-Sep-17 01:21:06

Oh, watch an Obama speech or two. Look at how he uses pauses - they can be lllooonnnggg (most people won't have the luxury of being able to take quite such long pauses) - but he uses that time to look right round the audience and see how they're responding. There's no hint of hesitation or losing his way - he knows exactly what he is doing.

vivaVasLagas Thu 21-Sep-17 05:47:35

As others have said, PRACTICE

It's the only way. Of course there are 'naturals' and those who find it a little more difficult but really, doing it over and over and over again makes it easier.

I used to hate it but as a bit of a masochist, often try to do things I'm worried about.

Know your subject matter inside out. If you're full to the brim with whatever knowledge you need, you'll be far less reliant on notes and be able to deviate before coming back to the topic. With out the reliance and nerves, you'll do much better.

Finally, remind yourself that you have been chosen by others to do this. They think you'll be good at it even if you don't! They're probably correct so enjoy it.

AlphaStation Thu 21-Sep-17 05:51:51

The Dale Carnegie Program wasn't a waste of time (stretched out over several weeks, 3x speeches each night). Expensive but for me, worth it. My employer(s) picked up the bill.

13bastards Thu 21-Sep-17 06:34:13

In my last job I used to deliver 1 presentations to groups of 20 people 3 times a week so I did it loads. My advice is to Speak slightly slower than you think you need to, I can gabble on a bit and I find focusing on slowing down stops it.

Along with that Smile and try to make eye contact with people

Good luck!

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