You go up on stage. It’s dark. The lights turn on. It’s time. Lights… Camera… Action… What happens next?
Perhaps you’ve memorized a script and you’re reciting. Maybe, instead, you’re talking about something, completely unscripted. It could be that you have your script on stage with you. Whatever your circumstance, this is your moment. The moment you’ve been preparing for. You prepared to make an impression. The impression you make on your audience could change your life.
You give your presentation, speech, or performance. After you’ve finished, you go offstage and suddenly it occurs to you. The moment of action: it is a blur. Within seconds of finishing you cannot remember what you said, did, or how it went. Did you make an impact? Was the impact positive?
It is relatively common knowledge more people fear speaking in public than those who fear death. It should not be a surprise then, that nearly 75% of people have some type of fear of public speaking. Glossophobia is the technical term used for this fear.
I am not sure if I have a true fear of public speaking. Whenever I am given the opportunity to speak in public, I usually take it. I have given presentations and speeches, sat on panels, and shared my story openly on camera. Each and every time as I am mentally preparing myself for speaking in front of people, I convince myself I’m going to absolutely blow it. I think about all of the worse case scenarios. What if I can’t find my place? What if I trip? What if my heel breaks? (Pro-Tip for women – WEAR FLATS!) What if I start sweating profusely? What if…?
*Thump* *Thump* *Thump*
I get on stage. My heart starts beating out of my chest. The introductory applause stops. Lights are on me, and the lights are BLINDING! I may start with a funny punchline. Perhaps I offer a glimpse into my personal accomplishments. Maybe I ask a rhetorical question to the audience. However I start my presentation, I usually try to lighten the mood to help me break away from the worse case scenarios that are probably still stuck in my head. It helps. Now I get through the rest of it.
I finish my thoughts. I offer gratitude for the interest and participation of the audience, and then I finish. It’s over. I walk offstage.
Next, like clockwork, I go back into my head. What in the WORLD just happened up there? I prepared. I presented. I spoke. Somehow, I cannot remember a single thing I said on stage or how the audience reacted. How is that possible? How in the world did I give a 2 minute speech, or 30 minute presentation including Q&A, or sit on a panel alongside peers, and now I can’t remember a thing?
The more times I get in front of people and talk, the less I feel this way. I believe that fears live along side bravery. It is very possible the glossophobic part of me is the part of me that blocks the memory instantly after speaking in public. But the more I bring out that fear and face it, the more of the experience I remember.
As long as I keep being asked to speak in public, I will continue to answer with an enthusiastic Yes! I will not let glossophobia hold me back. My professional goals will require the ability to speak and present fearlessly. I intend to continue stretching these muscles and becoming better.
Share about your last public speaking experience in the comments below!
(Note: The photo is from one of the first times I spoke in public outside of the classroom!)