50 Thoughts: Death Before Public Speaking

Originally published September 6, 2018

This is exactly how much I hate public speaking. I’ve spent the last 45 minutes reading about Les Moonves’ hatred of Janet Jackson and waiting for Sally Field to Tweet about Burt Reynolds just to put off even writing about how much I hate public speaking. (And oh by the way, she hasn’t Tweeted about Burt yet, but she did Tweet a trailer for Maniac on Netflix and wow I think I need to watch that.)

I certainly hope I am not tempting fate with my title ( … and now anxiety kicks in …), but I have to talk in front of a few dozen people tomorrow at work. For approximately FIVE WHOLE MINUTES. Laugh if you want, but ‘fraidy cats like me know this is torture.

There are many reasons I chose to be a writer, and being able to hide behind a notebook or a laptop screen is definitely one of them.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I struggle with public speaking, especially since I tend to lean toward a Chatty Cathy when around friends. I love to talk, just not authoritatively. I gave college tours and took potential customers around our headquarters in a previous career. But to stand up in front of more than 10 people? I trip on my tongue, clam up and then hate on myself for hours afterward, overthinking it all.

I do remember running for class treasurer in 7th grade and having to give a speech in front of entire school. It scared the shit out of me then and I have yet to recover. I also lost, ending any career in politics. Not counting various class assignments and my own wedding, I managed to escape my worst fear until several years into my career, where I was forced to present the company long-range plan to high-level management. Again, not my finest moment, even though I was likely rocking a Jones New York suit and a sassy little perm. ( I don’t necessarily pine for the ’90s, but I would like hair with body in it and another Hootie and the Blowfish album, thank you very much.)

I’ve tried the “Picture everyone in their underwear” trick before, but I have to hard pass on that one when it comes to work. There are things you can’t unsee, even in your imagination, and I am just not going there with my coworkers. Honestly, I think it has more to do with feeling like I belong in the conversation than anything else. And I’d say it has to do with having people’s respect, but when you cut right down to the core of the challenge, it’s really about respecting and believing in yourself.

I took a decade off in between my first corporate career and working full-time again, and for me, it’s just taking a little bit longer to remove the training wheels this time around. I’m older, more experienced and I need to remember that can also mean I am wiser — that I know more in those WHOLE FIVE MINUTES about the topic than the people with which I am sharing the information.

If i were to offer advice to my kids? Get yourself to a Toastmasters class, stat. Public speaking isn’t something you should shy away from — own what you know and share it! In the meantime, wish me luck and let me know if Sally weighs in on Burt.

Today’s recommendation: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I’m feeling like I need to re-read this just as a refresher. Everyone’s worthy. No prerequisites. Just do it.

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