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Jawbone54
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Dec 30, 2011, 01:49 AM
 
My job requires a decent amount of public speaking, but from time to time I have to speak in front of larger crowds than I'm used to, and the week-long period before the speaking engagements make me physically ill. This week has been one of those weeks. I'm currently in NW Arkansas, and I've spent the last several days trying to overcome pre-speaking jitters. I'm not actually nervous while speaking, but beforehand, I've vomited, been unable to sleep more than 4 hours, and cannot get over it until I actually step in front of people.

So here's the point of the thread: do any of you have tips for overcoming nervousness in these situations? I've got one more day of speaking, and I'm completely and utterly exhausted from the mental exertion. Preparation and the speaking itself isn't the problem -- it's anticipation.

Do any of you have routines, diets, thought process that help? This introvert needs some help.
     
Shaddim
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Dec 30, 2011, 02:01 AM
 
Do something that boosts your adrenaline levels, go on long runs or pretty much anything that gets your heart going. Combine that with eating right and enough sleep (the exercise helps this) and you'll be fine.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine
     
moonmonkey
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Dec 30, 2011, 02:14 AM
 
I found it gets easier - especially if you are an expert on the subject matter.

I did get some one on one with a professional trainer (before a particularly important presentation) who helped me with posture what to do with your hands and not saying "um" which I used to do a lot. This gave me more confidence so make me less nervous before hand.

Might be worth a few hundred bucks if it makes you less stressed.
     
Doofy
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Dec 30, 2011, 02:51 AM
 
OK, so remember the last time you spoke in public? Did you screw it up? No. So are you going to screw the next one up? No.

Now, remember the last time you did screw it up? Did your life end because you screwed it up? No. Is your life going to end if by chance you screw it up again? No.



Sounds like you're away from newly enlarged family for first time too. That's gotta have an effect. Chill. Pray. Chill some more. Pray some more. Do stuff to take your mind off the upcoming event.
Been inclined to wander... off the beaten track.
That's where there's thunder... and the wind shouts back.
     
besson3c
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Dec 30, 2011, 03:35 AM
 
There have been entire books written about performance preparation stuff, which is basically what you are talking about here: performance.

There are a number of tactics here including what people have already suggested. You'll probably have to play around to find what works for you. However, what will probably be true no matter what is that practice and repetition will be necessary to help reduce anxiety. You can practice by performing in front of a mirror, in front of any sort of audience (including family), and by doing things to try to simulate your performance and all of the feelings that go along with it.

I know it seems silly to perform in front of a mirror, but I've seen great speakers practice this way - this is what one has to do. I know that Steve Jobs did keynote rehearsals.

It's not just about the rehearsal for prepping your material though, it's about putting you in those nervous situations so that they eventually no longer freak you out. I've spoken to many performers who claim that they never completely 100% lose that stage fright sort of feeling, but after doing it for so long it eventually becomes quite manageable and familiar to them.

It sounds like greater familiarity is what you need!
     
besson3c
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Dec 30, 2011, 03:40 AM
 
I will add that hearing these sorts of questions is often quite politically advantageous to those of us interested in promoting music education, cause to me this is a great reason to keep music programs in the schools. The vast majority of students won't go on and perform music very often if at all post K-12, but that experience of giving recitals and auditioning and stuff is great practice for these sorts of scenarios Jawbone is describing here. Whether you are giving a speech, performing music, doing stand up comedy, whatever - that performance anxiety is all pretty much the same sort of deal.
     
subego
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Dec 30, 2011, 03:51 AM
 
Doofy's got it right. Your brain isn't viewing the situation objectively.

The trick is, you can't only intellectually understand that you're overreacting. You have to really believe it.

It also sounds like you're obsessing. Are you an obsessive type?
     
Shaddim
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Dec 30, 2011, 03:55 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
It also sounds like you're obsessing. Are you an obsessive type?
He watched Friends every night for 4 years...
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine
     
moonmonkey
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Dec 30, 2011, 06:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
There have been entire books written about performance preparation stuff, which is basically what you are talking about here: performance.
Im not sure its the same thing,

a) learning a play, a part and the lines
b) getting up on stage and talking about something you are are an expert in and be willing to field questions.

First thing would give me cold sweats, second is easy as pie.

Which is Jawbone doing?
     
FireWire
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Dec 30, 2011, 06:36 AM
 
When I was younger and was nervous about doing presentation, I would tell myself that whatever happens, and even if I screw up, everything will be over tomorrow and try not to think about it. I know it's not recommended, but I also never rehearse my speeches. It only makes me more nervous and then I screw up. If I screw up during rehearsal it will make me lose confidence. But I know most people prefer to rehearse until it's perfect. I know once I'm speaking I tend to be OK so I just pretend the speech doesn't exist.
     
Jawbone54  (op)
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Dec 30, 2011, 09:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by Shaddim View Post
He watched Friends every night for 4 years...
Seinfeld.
( Last edited by Jawbone54; Dec 30, 2011 at 09:34 AM. )
     
Jawbone54  (op)
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Dec 30, 2011, 09:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by moonmonkey View Post
I found it gets easier - especially if you are an expert on the subject matter.

I did get some one on one with a professional trainer (before a particularly important presentation) who helped me with posture what to do with your hands and not saying "um" which I used to do a lot. This gave me more confidence so make me less nervous before hand.

Might be worth a few hundred bucks if it makes you less stressed.
I've actually been doing this kind of speaking for 8 years, so the "ums," lip-smacking, bad posture, awkward hands, and pacing are all pretty much behind me. When I actually get up to speak, I'm 100% fine. I'm not nervous when I speak -- I'm nervous before I speak. I'm beginning to think it's just an aspect of my personality.

Originally Posted by Doofy View Post
OK, so remember the last time you spoke in public? Did you screw it up? No. So are you going to screw the next one up? No.

Now, remember the last time you did screw it up? Did your life end because you screwed it up? No. Is your life going to end if by chance you screw it up again? No.



Sounds like you're away from newly enlarged family for first time too. That's gotta have an effect. Chill. Pray. Chill some more. Pray some more. Do stuff to take your mind off the upcoming event.
As simple as that comment seems on the surface, it actually helps a great deal.

Yes, being away from the wife and son for nearly 4 days has sucked.

I've repeated the chill/pray process in the hotel room repeatedly. It works, but the queasy stomach always remains

Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
There have been entire books written about performance preparation stuff, which is basically what you are talking about here: performance.

There are a number of tactics here including what people have already suggested. You'll probably have to play around to find what works for you. However, what will probably be true no matter what is that practice and repetition will be necessary to help reduce anxiety. You can practice by performing in front of a mirror, in front of any sort of audience (including family), and by doing things to try to simulate your performance and all of the feelings that go along with it.

I know it seems silly to perform in front of a mirror, but I've seen great speakers practice this way - this is what one has to do. I know that Steve Jobs did keynote rehearsals.

It's not just about the rehearsal for prepping your material though, it's about putting you in those nervous situations so that they eventually no longer freak you out. I've spoken to many performers who claim that they never completely 100% lose that stage fright sort of feeling, but after doing it for so long it eventually becomes quite manageable and familiar to them.

It sounds like greater familiarity is what you need!
I'd definitely agree that greater familiarity and preparation is always helpful. I've never been the practice in front of a mirror type, however -- that usually has the opposite effect on me.

Part of it is that it's not just public speaking. I've been in plays and sang in front of people for most of my life, and those haven't caused the nervousness. What I'm doing this week is preach a message in front of about 1,500 12-to-20-year-olds. Preaching is different from all other events because it can't just be about performance -- there has to be a sincerity and depth to the material and presentation. If it's too polished, that's almost a bad thing. It has to be real.

I'm not a shmarmy guy by nature, but I am an introvert doing an extroverts job. I've trained away some things, like being nervous to talk to strangers and talking in front of most crowds. It's just that when the ante is upped so significantly, I wonder if I'm the most capable guy for the job, the ball starts rolling, and my nature begins to take over.

Originally Posted by subego View Post
Doofy's got it right. Your brain isn't viewing the situation objectively.

The trick is, you can't only intellectually understand that you're overreacting. You have to really believe it.

It also sounds like you're obsessing. Are you an obsessive type?
...I'm incredibly obsessive.

Originally Posted by moonmonkey View Post
Im not sure its the same thing,

a) learning a play, a part and the lines
b) getting up on stage and talking about something you are are an expert in and be willing to field questions.

First thing would give me cold sweats, second is easy as pie.

Which is Jawbone doing?
b, technically.

Originally Posted by FireWire View Post
When I was younger and was nervous about doing presentation, I would tell myself that whatever happens, and even if I screw up, everything will be over tomorrow and try not to think about it. I know it's not recommended, but I also never rehearse my speeches. It only makes me more nervous and then I screw up. If I screw up during rehearsal it will make me lose confidence. But I know most people prefer to rehearse until it's perfect. I know once I'm speaking I tend to be OK so I just pretend the speech doesn't exist.
Yeah, as I stated in earlier in this response, over-rehearsing a sermon could make me seem too polished, too fake, and/or too concerned about how I appear, and that's suicide for a preacher.

I know a secularist's view of preaching and the type of preparation involved might be different, but and event like this usually goes like this...

1. Pray every single day months in advance, asking God for direction in subject choice.
2. Seek information on your audience. How old are they? What will the environment be like? Is it low-key or intense?
3. Study your guts out once you feel like direction has been received. Read everything you can find in the Bible and related books, and find or recollected stories that will flow well with the message.
4. Pray and study over messages daily, weeks in advance.
5. And finally (for me), lose 5 pounds in a week.

I've watched my dad speak to crowds of 20,000 before, and have seen him, even after 35+ years of ministry, become just as nervous in front of 500 people in some environments. I guess there's just something in our nature that causes us to do this.

I'm not worried about embarrassment -- the concern most feels like worry that I'm going to let the event coordinators down after having brought me here. They had plenty of people to choose from, and I feel under-qualified for the task. I don't want to waste anyone's time, and I definitely want to help some students.
     
besson3c
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Dec 30, 2011, 03:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by moonmonkey View Post
Im not sure its the same thing,

a) learning a play, a part and the lines
b) getting up on stage and talking about something you are are an expert in and be willing to field questions.

First thing would give me cold sweats, second is easy as pie.

Which is Jawbone doing?

It's not literally the same thing, but there are many similarities.

At the heart of the anxiety is probably something along the lines of a fear of being exposed, that the people won't like him, that he is ill prepared, etc. - some combination of these sorts of fears and doubts, or variations on something similar. How is this dissimilar from the fears of, say, playing a recital?
     
imitchellg5
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Dec 30, 2011, 04:17 PM
 
I'm much like you, Jawbone. I freak out quite a bit whenever I speak publicly, however, one thing I've learned lately is that if I simply tell my audience that I'm not a fan of speaking publicly, in some manner of humorous way, I feel a LOT better about it.
     
Waragainstsleep
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Dec 30, 2011, 05:48 PM
 
Dutch courage.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
Jawbone54  (op)
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Dec 30, 2011, 07:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by imitchellg5 View Post
I'm much like you, Jawbone. I freak out quite a bit whenever I speak publicly, however, one thing I've learned lately is that if I simply tell my audience that I'm not a fan of speaking publicly, in some manner of humorous way, I feel a LOT better about it.
Strange that you mention that. At my last session I pretty much did that exact thing. I often use self-deprecating humor -- people seem to be disarmed by it.

Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
Dutch courage.


Somehow I don't think that's quite an option for me.
     
Waragainstsleep
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Dec 30, 2011, 09:21 PM
 
Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
Somehow I don't think that's quite an option for me.
Not on the day maybe, but if its worrying several days in advance, might take the edge off a bit.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
ghporter
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Dec 30, 2011, 10:04 PM
 
Doofy nails it. You have been doing this sort of thing for quite a while, you're the expert people want to hear, and you have the right answers. What's to be nervous about? Reminding yourself that you have a 1.000 batting average in the "not screwing up" category is a great way to calm yourself. A great deal of the discomfort you are feeling is nervous energy, and I'll bet that you get quite a rush from actually getting into your presentation. That's the key here: identifying the discomfort for what it is, which gives you tools and approaches to deal with it.

A little preparation beyond knowing your subject and approach will help too. What makes this audience different from the last, and from the last 10? Are the members of this crowd more interested in the theory or the application of what you're presenting? Are they closer to entry level or closer to your level of expertise? Etc, etc. In other words, find something to put that nervous energy to work on.

I was selected to teach technical courses in the Air Force at the age of 20, WAY younger than just about any Air Force instructor ever - a point made frequently and at length during the process of obtaining the plethora of waivers, approval letters, etc. And I started out painfully shy. How was I going to be able to do this job and not humiliate myself, get fired, go to jail, and so on? I got excellent training in the process of developing the teaching plan, structuring the presentation and the like, but it was the actual practice that convinced me I could do it. And one more little tool: I was portraying the "knowledgable and expert instructor," playing the role of the supposed knower of all things related to my subject. I am apparently a good actor, because I not only got by, I got regular awards and recognition and was eventually chosen to help build my career field's overall training plan from the ground up.

Just keep in mind that your presentation is a performance, and you are Gielgud, nobody better for the role you're playing.

Break a leg!

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Shaddim
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Dec 30, 2011, 11:18 PM
 
Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
Seinfeld.
Damn, that may be worse.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
- Thomas Paine
     
subego
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Dec 31, 2011, 01:01 AM
 
Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
...I'm incredibly obsessive.
Well, this makes it tougher. I'm still working on it myself.

I assume, like me, you consider your obsessive nature to be on the whole a useful trait, so you aren't interested in treating the obsessiveness, just the anxiety.

None of these things are a panacea, but they have all worked For me to some degree:

1) As has been mentioned, doing whatever it is a lot. For me, it has to be at least three times a week, so it's only practical when I have that kind of opportunity.

2) Obsessing about something else. This completely cures it, but is much harder than it sounds to let go of the first thing.

2a) Getting up with the minimum time needed to get ready and go. Not ideal by any means, because it's often not possible, but you'll be focused on getting ready rather than obsessing. Can screw you up if being late is also one of the things you obsess about.

3) Zoloft. This has definitely helped me have a more objective (i.e. less self critical) view of myself, which has in turn made me less likely to get obsess about negative things. Again, not a panacea, but it's been demonstrably helpful for me, and hasn't had any lingering side effects. It totally kills your sex drive for awhile though.

4) Pot.
     
iMOTOR
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Dec 31, 2011, 03:06 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
3) Zoloft.
4) Pot.
That’s one way to reach 12-20 year olds.
     
OreoCookie
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Dec 31, 2011, 06:38 AM
 
Originally Posted by moonmonkey View Post
I found it gets easier - especially if you are an expert on the subject matter.
Yes, this.
I've held easily over 100 lectures, talks and tutorials. After having given some tutorials in front of 20~30 students and a few talks, I gave my first lecture in front of 530 students. I didn't have much of a problem with public speaking, but that many (first-year) students were intimidating, I felt like in a lion's den. I was pretty nervous, because I felt like I needed to pay most of my attention to keeping the children in check. My evaluation that semester was (on average) less than stellar, but I learnt a lot from that experience.

It got better with time and now I'm comfortable with it. Staying in control of the »classroom experience« now works quite well and I have developed my own style. Although I still prefer to teach in front of smaller groups since the interaction with the students is much more personal.

There are some people to whom public speaking comes to naturally and then there is the vast majority. But even good (stage) actors can have very similar cases of stage fright: the flat mates of my office mate are actors and they told me that it's not uncommon that some actors also feel literally sick to the stomach before going on stage. So even seemingly extrovert people have the same problem.

My suggestions are:
(1) Don't drink or take any other medication before the talk. (I exclude coffee here, otherwise I wouldn't be able to function in the morning. )

(2) If you get nervous, try to shift your attention to the content of the talk, i. e. to the slides and what you want to say in addition. The more sure you're about the content of the talk, the better you will feel while giving the talk, the quicker you get into the groove, and the shorter the time period of anxiety. At the end of the day, the success of your talk depends on what you say and that the audience gets the impression that you give a damn.

In one of your subsequent posts, you mention prayer. I get the impression that this focusses your on your anxiety rather than away from it. (Don't get me wrong, whatever floats your boat, but I have the impression that it exacerbates your problems rather than alleviates them.)

(3) An hour before the talk, take a walk alone. Leave your cell phone, your slides and all other distractions.

(4) Then, fifteen minutes before the talk, go over your slides once more and imagine what you want to say.

(5) Get on stage. Make longer conscious pauses between the different »sections« than initially seems comfortable. (I'm saying this, because most people who are nervous tend to rush things, myself included.)
( Last edited by OreoCookie; Dec 31, 2011 at 06:51 AM. )
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Spheric Harlot
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Dec 31, 2011, 07:36 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
It's not literally the same thing, but there are many similarities.

At the heart of the anxiety is probably something along the lines of a fear of being exposed, that the people won't like him, that he is ill prepared, etc. - some combination of these sorts of fears and doubts, or variations on something similar. How is this dissimilar from the fears of, say, playing a recital?
It isn't, but the primary similarity hinges on the idea that the people going up there are experts in their fields. Being an expert at performing your instrument is technically equivalent, but completely alien to most folk, who see music as "just a hobby".

FWIW, it's not going up on stage for me, but prepping the first rehearsal with a new project/band. I've been doing this for ages, and I'm certainly an expert in my field, but I can't shake the nervousness, and the week before tryout/initial rehearsal, I go through a similar ordeal as Jawbone.

This thread has been quite interesting.
     
subego
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Dec 31, 2011, 05:34 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
FWIW, it's not going up on stage for me, but prepping the first rehearsal with a new project/band. I've been doing this for ages, and I'm certainly an expert in my field, but I can't shake the nervousness, and the week before tryout/initial rehearsal, I go through a similar ordeal as Jawbone.
Ultimately, it's the same for me as well. I'm not nervous when I'm actually "on the clock" as it were. It's the prep which causes my stomach to twist up in knots.
     
   
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