Overcoming My Fear of Public Speaking

Attempting public speaking

I’ve always been an extremely loquacious person—eager to express exactly how I felt to my classmates and teachers and take up most of the verbal space at every dinner and family gathering (to everyone’s dismay, I’m sure!). Articulating my thoughts and feelings as come easy to me my entire life, but when I have to do so in a school, professional, or other serious capacity, my experience hasn’t often been so effortless. When I was in high school I had to take two full semesters of speech class—once between freshman and sophomore year and another as a junior or senior. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic kumu who I took both classes from, but I was an absolute failure at speech. My first speech assignment ever was to find a song I loved and recite the memorized lyrics to the class using common hand gestures and without a podium. I barely made it through the speech and ended up with a D (I was not the best at school)! However, one of the skills I gained during COVID when I started organizing around Prison Industrial Complex abolition was public speaking for presentations. A few people I previously organized with allowed me to speak on the bullhorn at our demonstrations and I had to facilitate and present on abolition to interested parties and even a church group a couple of times over Zoom. I exercised my public speaking muscle in a far less scary setting (online) over the past few years, which helped me to practice and prepare for my presentations today. I gave my first in person presentation to a larger group (last year I presented to my company’s CEO and a few other coworkers!) of approximately 30 people last week and somehow it wasn’t too scary! I followed the same steps I used to prepare for online demonstrations (I wrote about those in this post) by drafting a script in my deck’s notes section, which I imprecisely followed as I spoke. I believe public speaking is a muscle I need to frequently exercise so I don’t panic and overwhelm myself in group scenarios. To be successful in my in person presentation, I introduced myself and spoke as I naturally would (I’m just a silly guy), followed the outline of my script, tried to speak clearly and slowly, and reminded myself that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Even if I made a mistake or jumbled my words, I cautioned myself that no one would remember any errors longer than I would. And off I went! I have another presentation to give tomorrow, and I’m actually looking forward to it! Fingers crossed I’ll continue improving my skill and have more opportunities to do so in the future!