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October 30, 2022

How I Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Sitting on the plane, my face masked for the first time in months, I think about how this is my second trip to the States this year. I’m grateful for a window seat on a sunny day flight.

I used to board a plane every couple of months, zig-zagging continents, changing out currency, and remembering which language to say hello in when I land.

It feels good to be in the air again.   While I no longer run a business with insane and frequent global flight paths, traveling is still in my blood.

I’ve missed it these past years, and the freedom and connection travel ignites for me.

This time, I’m flying from my jungly-beachy lifestyle to connect with a pretty awesome crew in Michigan. Since I was two weeks old, I have only returned to my birth state once. That time, it was to speak at this same Hero Round Table I last had the honor of joining way-back-long-time-ago in 2019.

It was chilly then, and I’m expecting the weather to be chilly this time around. Michigan had a sprinkling of snow a few days ago, which might have been fun to frolic in for a few minutes.

The cold is the one thing I’m not looking forward to in these late October days, but I am traveling into low-digit temperatures in well-worn flip-flops anyway.

Why do I make such poor wardrobe decisions, always?

That’s not entirely true. Sometimes I dress all right. But it’s also not true that the cold is the one thing I’m not looking forward to. There is another.

It’s the heebie-jeebies. These afflict me right before I have to walk in front of people.  Right before I open my mouth to deliver my talk and all I can do is hope the practiced words spill out in the right order at a speed the audience can follow.

I love writing, speaking to public groups spontaneously, teaching in front of students, and of course, karaoke-ing in my mom’s favorite bars. But . . . man. Ask me to prep and present anything official in advance and my stomach drops to the bottom while my heart picks up speed.

However, I feel confident that the purpose and flow I’ve got nailed. After months of living in Writer’s Block Land, I finally found the thread, and my Hero-themed story spun onto the pages. Deep down, I know I will do just fine, at least mostly.

It’s the anxiety leading up to those first spoken words that derails me every time.

I need supportive hugs and grounding breaths.

At the 2019 Hero Round Table, I had yet to befriend many of the other speakers, but I joined them in the Green Room backstage, set down a bottle of white and a bottle of red, and announced, “Anyone else back here need “courage in a cup”? Those stage lights are BRIGHT.”

Hands went up. Including the hands of those who I thought looked brave, practiced, confident, and well-dressed.

I suppose one could be brave, practiced, confident, and well-dressed, and still feel a little anxious about public speaking.

This year, I’m doing my darnedest to push past the anxiety. I am aiming to know my speech so well, that I find myself on the other side of this fear. I want to be bouncing with excitement and confidence as I click through all my slides on the big screen.

I want to flow through each storyline with forgivable mistakes if any.

To help me achieve this, I’ve created an audio recording of my speech and have played it repeatedly through my earphones all week long.

Have you ever listened to a recorded track of yourself talking over and over?

I don’t recommend it.

I find myself noticing the tiredness in my voice in some places. I recognize the parts where I fumble in my thoughts, if not my words. Sometimes, mid-talk, I zone out on listening to my own self and start playing with my cat Tino instead.

But I do think listening is helping me learn my lines. Isn’t that how we learn the words of our favorite songs? Listening repeatedly?

We’ll find out Friday at 12:15 pm EST. That’s my time slot. Right before the lunch break. I hope my audience isn’t hangry. I hope they don’t sneak out to be first in line for the food trucks and skip my talk. As nervous as I am to be in front of them, I still want them there in their seats listening to me. All of them.

By the time this post is delivered to your inbox, I might be currently on stage.

I also might be throwing up backstage.

Or my confidence might have caved, and I’ve gathered a huddle of these inspiring heroes who are all equally as nervous and are gratefully sipping a little Sauvignon with me before our names are introduced.

So stay tuned.

I’ll likely write something about this next week. Likely from my next window seat on the next plane, propelling me to my next chilly destination in the States on this trip.

Likely, still in flip-flops.

~ Christy

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