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cattius

Anxiety when public speaking

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I've never been comfortable public speaking at all, in fact, I think I now have an irrational fear built up within me. I'm not exactly a shy person, I can be quite outspoken in a relaxed setting when it's off the cuff but in certain instances I get, irrationally, really nervous.  For instance: while on a training day recently, myself and 9 others, were all sat down around a table and we were to give the usual style introductions. Going anticlockwise around the table I was to be last to speak. Because I had time to think about the fact that I had to speak in front of everyone my chest tightened up and I had what I'm guessing is some sort of anxiety attack. I was able to do the introduction and everything was fine but I was short of breath and my voice cracked a bit. 

I'm 35 and for the last couple of years I've dreaded situations like this because I know the same thing will happen. I know it's completely stupid and I have tried things to combat it, ie controlling my breath, but whenever I anticipate speaking in front of a group those same feelings come back. 

 

Does anyone else suffer from this? How did you cure it, if at all? 

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6 minutes ago, cattius said:

I've never been comfortable public speaking at all, in fact, I think I now have an irrational fear built up within me. I'm not exactly a shy person, I can be quite outspoken in a relaxed setting when it's off the cuff but in certain instances I get, irrationally, really nervous.  For instance: while on a training day recently, myself and 9 others, were all sat down around a table and we were to give the usual style introductions. Going anticlockwise around the table I was to be last to speak. Because I had time to think about the fact that I had to speak in front of everyone my chest tightened up and I had what I'm guessing is some sort of anxiety attack. I was able to do the introduction and everything was fine but I was short of breath and my voice cracked a bit. 

I'm 35 and for the last couple of years I've dreaded situations like this because I know the same thing will happen. I know it's completely stupid and I have tried things to combat it, ie controlling my breath, but whenever I anticipate speaking in front of a group those same feelings come back. 

 

Does anyone else suffer from this? How did you cure it, if at all? 

Yes, I think it's quite common. The secret is to not give a sh!t. Seriously, the more importance you place on the event, the worse it will be.  

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Also try Baths flower remedies - there's one for anxiety 

http://www.bachfloweradvice.co.uk/bach-flowers-and-fear/anxiety.htm

I remember having to do a debate in front of 200 people for the first time... The thought of it made me so tired  - but this stuff helped. Maybe it was all in my head, but i tell you, 5 drops of this stuff under my tongue seemed to help

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50 minutes ago, cattius said:

I've never been comfortable public speaking at all, in fact, I think I now have an irrational fear built up within me. I'm not exactly a shy person, I can be quite outspoken in a relaxed setting when it's off the cuff but in certain instances I get, irrationally, really nervous.  For instance: while on a training day recently, myself and 9 others, were all sat down around a table and we were to give the usual style introductions. Going anticlockwise around the table I was to be last to speak. Because I had time to think about the fact that I had to speak in front of everyone my chest tightened up and I had what I'm guessing is some sort of anxiety attack. I was able to do the introduction and everything was fine but I was short of breath and my voice cracked a bit. 

I'm 35 and for the last couple of years I've dreaded situations like this because I know the same thing will happen. I know it's completely stupid and I have tried things to combat it, ie controlling my breath, but whenever I anticipate speaking in front of a group those same feelings come back. 

 

Does anyone else suffer from this? How did you cure it, if at all? 

 

Must admit I've never been nervous

Waiting your turn around a table at a meeting can mean you rehearse over and over "My name is.... and I'm from... and I do....., but really, all you have to say is your name, where you are from, what you do, so it doesn't need rehearsing, just think of something else, a dosbod perhaps, and wait your turn.

I think that relaxation when speaking to audiences comes from

1) Knowing your stuff inside out and that comes with experience and not venturing onto stuff you don't know just to make an impression

2) Understanding that nobody expects anyone to know everything.

3) Being confident enough to say 'I don't know'.

4) Remembering that the majority of the audience are on your side, generous and eager to hear what you have to say, and that they understand 2 and appreciate 3

5) Not worrying that the audience may contain a few people who will try to be smart and ask cleverdick or difficult questions. You don't need to worry  about them because of 1, 2, 3 and 4. Besides, you can also always turn a cleverdick question back onto the person who asked it, because 9/10 times they will already think they know the answer and are trying to show off, and 9/10 times they'll dry up or make a fool of themselves.

Relax and enjoy, go with the flow

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It is very difficult.

Of course, the answer is to not worry about it -- but that is exactly the wrong thing to say to someone who is worrying about it (!)

The only thing I can say is take notes during the early stages of the meeting (or, at the point where you learn you'll have to say something).  Anything, really.  This will keep you busy and your mind off the problem, and also give you some notes to work with if you get stuck.  You shouldn't keep the notes afterwards.  You shouldn't read the notes, but they should give you confidence that you could look up something to say if you froze up.

Obviously, if you're picked first you'll not be able to take notes...  but then you'll have less time to worry...  Eventually you'll have gone over the process enough times that you'll have a few 'set pieces' that you could just regurgitate if you're picked first.

Don't worry about being brief, about not being the person who goes on about their special history (or whatever).  Everyone hates them anyway, and just wants to get it over with as well.  So if you're brief that's okay.

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3 minutes ago, dgul said:

Don't worry about being brief, about not being the person who goes on about their special history (or whatever).  Everyone hates them anyway, and just wants to get it over with as well.  So if you're brief that's okay.

Top tip. Introductions are blooming boring.

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The less you say the less can be analysed and dissected

Make the audience work for it - especially the @ssjoles who may be out there to be smart@sses

Oh, and dont give a fck, but that is far far easier said than done

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1 hour ago, cattius said:

I've never been comfortable public speaking at all, in fact, I think I now have an irrational fear built up within me. I'm not exactly a shy person, I can be quite outspoken in a relaxed setting when it's off the cuff but in certain instances I get, irrationally, really nervous.  For instance: while on a training day recently, myself and 9 others, were all sat down around a table and we were to give the usual style introductions. Going anticlockwise around the table I was to be last to speak. Because I had time to think about the fact that I had to speak in front of everyone my chest tightened up and I had what I'm guessing is some sort of anxiety attack. I was able to do the introduction and everything was fine but I was short of breath and my voice cracked a bit. 

I'm 35 and for the last couple of years I've dreaded situations like this because I know the same thing will happen. I know it's completely stupid and I have tried things to combat it, ie controlling my breath, but whenever I anticipate speaking in front of a group those same feelings come back. 

 

Does anyone else suffer from this? How did you cure it, if at all? 

I used to be cripplingly shy but now speak in front of large audiences a few times a year.  Just realise that 99% of them will forget whatever you say within 24 hours of you saying it.

(The other 1% will remember and want to shag you).

 

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1 hour ago, cattius said:

I'm 35 and for the last couple of years I've dreaded situations like

One of the nice things about growing older is that you care less about these things. Honestly, when you are 70, you'll be able to rant and rave from Speaker's Corner without thinking. Abraham Lincoln, apparently (it's probably not true), became so nervous before speaking that he would clench a coin in his hand. At the end, his palm would be bleeding.

On the practical side, I'd say you could ensure you do some sport to drain your muscles of nervous energy the evening before; you'll find you are mysteriously more chilled the next day, You could also try visualisation, which is proven to work for athletes i.e. merely visualising performing a task  improves your ability. You could also join an am-dram group if it is crowds that make you nervous. That no-body cares what you say is also true, by and large; people just want to get through the day and go home. I sometimes wonder whether nervousness is related to pride in that it can bother you so much what people think of you that you worry about making a slip-up or coming across as less than perfect. If that could be true, you'll need to work through the implications of that with some philosophy books.

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1 hour ago, cattius said:

I've never been comfortable public speaking at all, in fact, I think I now have an irrational fear built up within me. I'm not exactly a shy person, I can be quite outspoken in a relaxed setting when it's off the cuff but in certain instances I get, irrationally, really nervous.  For instance: while on a training day recently, myself and 9 others, were all sat down around a table and we were to give the usual style introductions. Going anticlockwise around the table I was to be last to speak. Because I had time to think about the fact that I had to speak in front of everyone my chest tightened up and I had what I'm guessing is some sort of anxiety attack. I was able to do the introduction and everything was fine but I was short of breath and my voice cracked a bit. 

I'm 35 and for the last couple of years I've dreaded situations like this because I know the same thing will happen. I know it's completely stupid and I have tried things to combat it, ie controlling my breath, but whenever I anticipate speaking in front of a group those same feelings come back. 

 

Does anyone else suffer from this? How did you cure it, if at all? 

I did way back when I first did it. The trick is just to do more public speaking - in the end you just get used to it and it stops being scary. I had the same with performing music in public. The first few times I crapped myself, after that I was fine. I think the main anxiety is the fear that you won't know what to say which, for most people, is the last thing that will actually go wrong. I know someone who cured themselves of this by doing a stand-up comedy course which finished with a 5 minute slot on stage in front of the public. He figured that, since he managed to get through a situation where the audience were basically a bit hostile, doing it in front of people who wouldn't heckle and wanted to hear what he had to say would be fine.

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I used to be exactly as the OP described. Then had to do a best mans speech, the classic. On advice from a good friend was told to write it early, know it by heart (you will still need to read off the cards on the day) speak slowly etc. On the day, got just the right amount of tipsy, and took some beta blockers (no idea if they worked cos I have nothing to compare it to). Went really well and totally broke the back of the insecurity/mild phobia. Not a problem any more, in fact quite look forward to it now. 

I guess that's exposure therapy. Could you force yourself in to a situation where you speak in front of many people, but in a situation where success or failure doesn't matter?

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Seek self help on Youtube. Public speaking needs teaching and practice in front of a mirror - or in front of camera.

Not many are really good at it - those that are become life coaches (NLP), politicians or bloggers on youtube, and make fortunes.

Those that are passionate about their projects, just want to explode to the world about it, and will just keep talking. If the subject is not of your personal interest (i.e the companys' project that you know might fail), then that would be more difficult.

 

---

Do your homework. If you don't know something, offer to find out for them afterwards, if they leave you their email (they usually forget). Next question!

 

---

There are some other tricks, like putting yourself outside of your body, and imagining you are somebody that is good at public speaking. Imagine you are Tony Blair?

tony_blair.jpg

Knowing what to do with your hands is important too, have a few preset and default positions - How did Trump do it?

o-TRUMP-HANDS-facebook.jpg

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I never liked public speaking, nor indeed speaking in groups, but good advice is to know pretty thoroughly what you want to say (and remember it, write down  notes if necessary). One good technique is to address one person in your audience. Eye contact is really impressive, though don't just stare at one person throughout, move your gaze between people for different sentences or parts of a speech. And don't fumble with your hands, or leave them in your pocket, or play with coins - that is really offputting.

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Happens to most people I think. I tend to find I get a bit of tunnel vision, little memory of giving the presentation, and feel like I'm stumbling my way through it in no time, but apparently it's not that bad, and as time's gone by that's got easier.

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CBT. I really like this book, althought it's not exactly well written, but it does cover everything, and it is cheap.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Feeling-Good-New-Mood-Therapy/dp/0380810336

 

It's sort of the stuff liveinhope said, but you need a bit more than just knowing it, you need to get to the stage you really believe it. I ended up when I was in a nervous situation, just imagining the book cover and it relaxed me. Not that I'm cured or anthing.

 

I think it's actually potentially harder (or certainly different) when you're sitting together and just have to say something simple, compared to making a set speech before an audience.

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I think the first thing to remember is, almost always, that it's not all about you.

In the moments running up to you speaking you probably get this overwhelming sense that everybody is waiting for you to speak (and worse still, to fluff it up).

But newsflash: they are all thinking the same. As mentioned above, the ONLY time you will be the centre of attention for somebody else around that table, is if they have taken a shine to you. And guess what: in that situation, you can do no wrong! You could stammer like Gareth Gates, and like all the girls who took a shine to GG, it would only endear you to them.

Secondly, you certainly can overcome it.

I've made two Best Man speeches before big guest-groups of strangers in formal surroundings.

The first was a disaster. I got so nervous I hardly ate a thing and was a real bast@rd to a girl I loved dearly and really should have married (wouldn't have blamed her if that was the point at which she began to have doubts).

The second? Let's just put it this way. On at least three visits to the married couple's home since the wedding, the bride insisted on playing back the full videoed 25 minute "routine" to anyone who had not seen it, while I sat there pretending to be embarrassed by the attention. I dunno whether she was hoping to hire me out. It certainly did my ego no harm!

How did I manage the transformation? I think it had something to do with my general sense of worth vs other people. I can't say whether I realised I was hot shit, or whether I realised everyone else wasn't. Probably something in the middle of those two.

We are all vulnerable. We often only see that side of to people in those close to us. Maybe it's when strangers reveal the same that our self-critical nature gives a a break and we are then allowed to relax a little.

I recall a burd (herself attached) who I fancied talking to me at a party. I revealed I was a little self conscious and was taken aback by her surprise. Apparently I come across as Mr Composed. It just shows how we assume we are somehow the weak link and that everybody else is stronger, when in reality they are thinking the exact same thing.

Draw confidence from your strengths. And realise others have weaknesses. Public speaking: is that your field of expertise? Then why attach importance to it? That's all politicians etc can do. Why do you think they chose to do it? Be confident about your other abilities. The speaking will then come naturally from that confidence. After all, in reality, it ain't nothing special as a skill.

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Effective public speaking is no black art or NLP by-product nor is it the exclusive domain of a few uber-confident, naturally gifted individuals.

It’s a craft and like any other requires preparation and practise rather than silver-bullet techniques gleaned from airport departure lounge TEN EASY STEPS TO GOOD PRESENTATION books.

Take introductions as an example. When are you likely to need these? Aside from the start to a longer presentation the most likely situations are in a meeting or course.

You may be asked to “…say who you are and what you do…”, “…tell us a little about yourself…” or even “…tell us your name and background and what you hope to get from the day…”.

In all cases you need to speak for the minimum amount of time to pass on the information, not repeat yourself and not appear overly hesitant or nervous.

As has been said, your audience want you to “succeed”, need to find out with whom they are working and make a quick judgement about you.

Just try doing such an introduction without any preparation or notes and recording it on your ‘phone, laptop, whatever. Play it back and try to write the whole thing down, word for word including the “errs”, “ummmhhh’s” and other padding.

Now, edit that text, remove the padding, repetition and anything that isn’t necessary and see what you’re left with. If it’s 1-2 minutes in length and contains all the relevant information you’re good to go, if it’s too long for a simple introduction then edit it down; better to leave them with questions you can answer in the coffee break than come across as a long-winded bore.

Then, read and record again and continue the process until you have 1-2 minutes of pithy, focussed introduction that will probably be no less than 150, no more than 250 words in length.

Practise it a few times, keep recording the results and at the end of an hour or two’s work you will have an introduction that you KNOW is brief and to the point.

Sure, you may be nervous when you come to do it but that’s to be expected and this time you’ll KNOW what you have to say, KNOW it contains all the relevant information and KNOW you’ve treated yourself and your audience with respect by taking the time to prepare what you have to say.

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8 hours ago, 200p said:

Knowing what to do with your hands is important too, have a few preset and default positions - How did Trump do it?

o-TRUMP-HANDS-facebook.jpg

This. Body language is very important if you want to make a good impression, and is often underestimated by those not accustomed to speaking publicly.

It is fairly easy to train yourself to to do something physically, and you'll be surprised at how quickly the "presets and defaults" that 200p describes will happen automatically. Note: I wouldn't take trump as a good example, but look out youtube presentations. Imitation is a sincere form of flattery, find speakers you like and copy them! I started off presenting stuff from a manual, and was given a sound piece of advice. Don't try to flip over the page surreptitiously. "Pause, look like your relishing the turn of that page, 'cos it means your one page closer to ending the lecture"!

Once your body gets into the swing of things, your mind should get the message eventually, and you'll start to relax.

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Accepted it is a skill and you can train yourself to become a competent practitioner. However, I remain dispelling of it as a worthy transitional skill and anyone with an ounce of awareness can see straight through the vast majority who just wing it. Those which are not very natural (ie most people) can often come over as smarmy, cocky, superficial, jobsworth, fake and/or desperate to impress. Im afraid I remain unconvinced this is something to aspire to and I find the modern  advanced leadership/presentation skills common in the work place quite stomach churning and unappealing. Simply do not want to train myself to be that way and fortunately in my job can pretty much avoid it. Someone said it well earlier :"imagine you are Tony Blair"- No thanks. Of course those that are really really good can become motivational speakers- god forbid.

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