Racing heart, wobbly legs, churning stomach and the feeling that any moment now you’re about to pass out because you can hardly breathe. Yes, it’s the impending doom of knowing you have to stand up in front of a room filled with people and talk.
Now, I don’t personally know anyone who particularly loves public speaking (do they exist? really?) and most of us will find it a nerve wracking and uncomfortable situation to have to be in. But I, HATE IT! Eurgh.
Do you feel the same way?
As it is, I often feel uncomfortable and nervous enough when talking in general, not to mention I have the horrendous memory of farting in front of my entire class when doing a weather forecast when I was in primary school (yes that really happened, and yes I remember it every time I have to publicly speak). So public speaking is still a big no no, and if given the option, I’d rather pass thank you.
But you see, the thing is, we can’t always avoid everything that we dislike in life. I’m sorry, but we can’t.
Come October I am going to have to stand in front of a room of like 250 odd people (to those on my SSE programme, did I make that number up? Or hear that somewhere? lol) and will have to give a 10 minute presentation on New Day Knitwear….
The thought of it already makes me feel sick.
So when my good friend Hayley at Quiet Connections mentioned she was starting up a speaking club (she also has to present that night, and she also feels sick about it) I thought ‘Yes, okay, this is what I need.” – a safe space, where I can make mistakes, fuck up and not feel an utter twat, because everyone else is there for the same reason.
So this is my speech, at the Speaking Club, completely unedited…
I want you to pay less attention to the content (unless you’re actually interested), and instead focus on my behaviour.
Did anyone notice I said sobbering (which isn’t even a word!) instead of sobbing! *Oops*
What did you see? Shaking? Panic? Embarrassment? And fear? Or a girl finding courage? Fighting through the nerves? And giving it a good old try?
When I finally watched this video back (it took me 2 days), I must admit I was quite surprised to find it to be no where near as embarrassing as I thought it would be! But what surprised me the most, was not being able to see how sick, anxious and afraid I was. Yes you can see I’m nervous, yes you can see my mind went blank a couple of times, and yes you can see I was forgetting to breathe. BUT, how I was feeling, and what I was thinking the other people were able to see was certainly not on the same scale as what was in my head. And that is a very important lesson to remember…
So what steps can you take to feel more confident with public speaking?
1. If you’re in Cornwall, then pop along to the Quiet Speaking Club: A safe place to grow your confidence.
We recognise here that for some just turning up is a great achievement! No one is forced to speak if they don’t want to, and everyone can work at their own pace and take all the time they need. It’s not just about public speaking either though (ie. formal speeches and whatnot), but also covering things like networking (which is a challenge for me) and small talk. Find out more here.
2. If you’re not in Cornwall, then have a browse around your local area for something similar.
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that there are plenty of services like this all around the country. It may not be exactly the same, but anything in working towards developing confidence will be a great first step! And if it doesn’t already exist – create it, or find someone who can. Here’s a good place to start: www.speakersclubs.uk
3. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
I was scrolling through Twitter this morning when I came across this from my friend Alex (who is also an amazing designer so check out her shit):
I love that Alex was nervous, did it anyway and still felt proud!
We’re all humans and we all get nervous. So if you stutter, say a word wrong (sobbering?!), lose your flow and forget what the hell you’re doing, just pause for a moment, take a breath, refocus and carry on. No one is going to judge you for it.
4. People can’t see what you’re thinking and feeling!
Doesn’t that sound so obvious? And yet I have literally only just realised this. Like I mentioned earlier, you may have moments during your speech where you think ‘fuck, that was embarrassing’ and that everyone can physically see that, or that everyone can feel the heat coming off your face, and can see how much your struggling to keep standing because your legs are shaking so much. The honest truth is, nobody notices these things, and even if they do, they don’t actually care. In fact, it only verifies that you are human, and believe it or not, people connect to that shit.
5. Find what works for you.
Does having props make it easier? Flash cards? Memorising? Improvising? Moving around or staying in one spot? Try a couple of different things and see what helps you feel more comfortable. Do you need silence and alone time before hand? Or being distracted? Not everything works for everyone so it’s important you find the things that help relax you.
Here is a great article that has some super tips and suggestions: How I Overcame The Fear of Public Speaking
Thanks to Stacie for allowing us to re-share her learnings from our Quiet Speaking Space. This piece was first published at NewDayKnitwear.co.uk.
If you would like a supportive space to practise speaking in public, in groups or 1:1, click here for more details.