Fear of Public Speaking?

The new pansies!
The new pansies!

I was asked several months ago to speak at a Lioness gathering of several Lioness Clubs who were meeting at an Annual Lions Convention. I said yes. I am working on rebuilding my speaking career, and speaking to new audiences on new topics is always excellent practice.

Public speaking is listed as the #1 fear for many people. I am fortunate that this fear has passed me by. I am profoundly grateful for this. I have plenty of other fears, speaking in front of large audiences isn’t one of them. Yet, speaking on a new topic does make me nervous.

A few days before I was scheduled to speak, I realized I was really, really nervous! I had done lots of preparation, including writing word for word what I would say. I had visualized and practiced in front of the mirror. In addition, the title of my talk was “Taking Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Others” so I had prepared an online Self-Care Guide that people who attended the workshop could download when they go to the special URL I created that connected to the gathering. Creating the Guide got me in touch with all the things I’ve learned to do, that allow me to maintain my energy and positive outlook on life.

I thought I was ready! Realizing I was so nervous was a bit of a surprise. I used to get really nervous before speaking to Tour de Cure audiences, but over time I gained more confidence and needed less external bolstering. At first, I wasn’t sure how to cope with my nerves. So, I sat down and listened to myself. Well, first I asked myself, “What’s going on? What support do you need?”

I focused internally on breathing and sitting quietly, to hear what insight would emerge. Sure enough, my Inner Pilot Light spoke up! She said, “You need to please stop being so busy and trying to distract yourself. Please slow down. Please get enough sleep. Please remember, you will do fine. Trust yourself. Trust that you’ve done the work.”

Hearing my Inner Pilot Light instantly made me realize that in a desire to deny my nerves, I had gotten super busy. I’d stayed up too late several nights in a row, and I wasn’t remembering to move slowly, and with confidence. Being busy is what the women in my family have done for generations to stay disconnected and out of touch. I am no longer willing to live in this pattern.

I took a big, deep breath. I got out my calendar and I revised my plan for the few days I had before the speech. I made a deliberate effort to slow down.

And it worked! The speech went very well! I was able to tell a few good stories, coordinate several fun and thoughtful activities and the energy in the room after I spoke was connected and the participants shared and connected around the wonderful fundraisers and community service activities they do. After the meeting was over, several of the participants wanted to talk with me, which is always a great indicator of success!

As I was preparing to leave, one of the organizers gave me a pot of pansies along with a really pretty pair of garden gloves! I planted the flowers today!

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2 thoughts on “Fear of Public Speaking?”

  1. Congratulations on a successful presentation Mari!

    I appreciate the distinction between feeling confident with public speaking but not as confident with a new topic. That continues to be where you grow and challenge yourself. I know many people who stay so busy as a means to no be present with their current life. I love the way you call that out and how you seek advice from your inner voice. And, you get it:-)… my mom used to tell me “close the book” after I would study night and day for an exam…”if you don’t know it by now you will never know it”… rest and you will do fine.

    • Adeline,
      Thanks for your wonderful reflection! It is so true, taking time to rest in what you already know is simply wise!!
      Our Inner Pilot Light (I borrowed that particular term from Lissa Rankin!) is always on our side and is always super smart!!
      I hope you are having a wonderful day!

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