Thursday, April 1, 2010


Glossophobia: speech anxiety, or fear of public speaking

Tomorrow, I have to do something I dread doing. Something I know millions of others dread doing, too. I have to give a speech.

And not just any speech. A speech about myself and my job. That's right, my editor has thrown my to the dragons. Or the lions. Whatever, you get my drift.

Here's the deal. My town has a thing called Leadership Simi Valley. It is a 10-month program that teaches residents all about how the city works, covering a broad spectrum of topics, with the goal of developing "leadership potential" in the community. And one of the monthly sessions is all about the media.

In the past, my editor has had the joy and privilege of speaking to the class. But this year, he is off in Vegas-- gambling, drinking, and having an all-around swell time, I'm sure-- and the duty falls to me. And I'm petrified. Look at the photo above. That's exactly how I feel.

I tried to convince my editor that he didn't want me to do it. I said, "Don't you remember what happened when I spoke to the journalism class at our alma mater? Don't you remember how terribly nervous I was? Don't you remember how bad I was?" He remembered, but there was no getting out of it.

I have known for a month or so that this was coming. I've tried to avoid thinking about it too much because every time I do my stomach turns in knots and I get a lump in my throat. But the big day tomorrow and there is no avoiding it now.

I will admit, I'm being a tad melodramatic. I only have to speak for about 15 minutes (about myself, my role at the paper, my experiences covering city government, etc.) and then take questions from the audience. But for me, 15 minutes seems like an eternity. Whenever I have to speak in groups, large or small, my hands get sweaty, my voice gets shaky and my face turns tomato red (thankyouverymuch pale skin!). And when I feel my face get hot and red, it just makes me more nervous! It's a vicious cycle, really.

My plan is to come prepared. When I spoke to the journalism class at Pepperdine, I was just as nervous and highly unprepared. I thought I'd "wing it," as they say. A few minutes before the talk I wrote down a very rough outline of what I would talk about on a scrap of paper. I figured I'd just follow my editor's lead, that he'd do most of the talking anyway. Now, I didn't completely embarrass myself, but I truly didn't inspire or enthrall the audience. And while there were students in the back of the room busy texting, I'm sure the ones who were listening and the ones who weren't could tell I was floundering.

So like I said, my game plan is preparedness. But I'm selfishly hoping that some of you can give me some wisdom and encouragement, too. Do you have to speak in public as part of your job? (See, I thought being a print reporter would largely exempt me from this terrifying task.) And does public speaking strike fear into your very soul like it does for me? How do you conquer it? 

Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Now I must leave you to go work on my outline and get some beauty sleep.

Alrighty, so just got back from my speaking engagement an hour ago. I've been spending the last 60 minutes talking to the boy about how it went and trying my darndest to decompress. For as nervous as I get before I have to speak, I remain just as nervous afterwards, my chest tight, thinking about how it all went (it's hard to remember at first exactly what I said) and how I could have done better. But after 60 minutes, I think it's time to let it go. It's done, it's over.

Deep breath now... and release...

My verdict? I did okay. Could have done better, of course, but I tried my best. The boy says that from what I tell him, it sounds like I did better than I think. I hope so! I think I answered questions better than I did just talking at the beginning. (Though I told myself not to, I said "um" one too many times.) I'm sure the audience could tell I was nervous but at least my face didn't turn beet red. A small victory, but I'll take it.

And thanks for the encouragement! I know I'm not alone in my fears and I guess it's just something we all have to face, whether we like it or not!

image via we heart it


Andhari said...

I dont doubt you for a second, Carissa.:) i know you'll go there prepared and deliver the speech well. All of us at some point will have quite a stage fright but we can handle it, especially if we prepare ourselves. Will it work if you imagine the crowd in their underwears? Or maybe if you imagine them as a bunch of puppies?:)

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

Being prepared always comes in handy. I'm petrified of public speaking. I've done it a couple times and for me, I don't think it gets better each time. Most everyone's got this same fear. The trick is to not look so scared up there. It's weird how I can talk to 50 people in a crowd, but put me up on stage with a mic with the same crowd watching me and my heart just pounds louder and louder. I have eye problems, I'm near sighted. So when I'm up on stage, I just remove my contacts. If I can't see anyone then I'm not so nervous. =) Good luck with your speech. Let us know how it goes. =)

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I'm the SAME way!! I'm a pretty confident person and I talk a lot, but put me in front of a GROUP of people - even all my classmates who are my closest friends - and I FREAK! My heart starts hammering SO hard and it's just not a good scene!!

Good luck, I'm sure you'll do great! XO

Ashley Yazzie said...



Shoshanah said...

I would have been just as nervous being up there giving a speech. I think the best way to do it is probably to be as prepared as possible. But I'm glad to hear you made it through. And even if it wasn't perfect, it wounds like it was better than your talk at Pepperdine. So hopefully the next talk you give will be even better!