How NOT to Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking

I’m taking a writing class, and one of things we had to do was identify what we wouldn’t do for writing.  Guess what a lot of people said?  Speak in public.

The first time I had to speak in public was in high school.  Public speaking was a required class, and I had to deliver a 5-minute speech.  I talk fast to start with, so the result was that I was so nervous that I raced through the speech at warp speed.  5 minute speech = 1 minute.  I just had to get away from all those people staring at me as fast as possible.

When I was an adult, though, I decided that I needed to get better at speaking, so I joined a Toastmasters club.  In Toastmasters the focus is on the positive and improvement, rather than simply throwing someone on stage as a requirement.

I liked creating the speeches because it’s building stories in a verbal form, or creating a verbal essay.  But despite all the speeches I gave, I still could not overcome how nervous I got.  I often found myself having to add more to a speech because I talked too fast and was still waiting for the green card to go up.

Then the worst thing happened.

I was doing the tech support at a conference.  No speaking.  But the room was set up so that I was in front of all the attendees.  Big Boss comes out to present awards.  Zoom.  I head for the sidelines to wait.

Hit the carpet.  The Adams Feet do their thing.  Ankle turns.


In front of 100 people.  Collective gasp. No one laughed.

I bounced back up and went to the furthest chair to sit down.  Big Boss continues with awards.  My boss comes over to see if I’m all right.  A few people checked in with me later on, and the Big Boss was a little concerned that I might fall down again (entirely possible, given the Adams Feet) and spent the day telling me, “Don’t fall.”

But the worst had happened, and I survived it.  Since then, I gave a speech at a writer’s conference that was well received, and I wasn’t nervous.  Still talked too fast, but it wasn’t at warp speed.

What’s your worst public speaking experience?

5 thoughts on “How NOT to Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking

  1. OUCH! My worst experience stayed with me for many years.

    High school speech class, circa 19-mumble-mumble.

    I did NOT have good hair or a cheerleader outfit on Friday.

    So, of course, The Day of The Speech was on a Friday (Cheerleader outfit day) and the girl before me vied for Best Hair in School. Her speech? Taking pride in self. Including (ta-daaa!) hair. She specifically cited people who simply push their hair behind their ears instead of styling it properly.

    Guess who had mousy brown hair tucked behind her ears? Yup.

    Guess who wished to be swallowed by a black hole rather than walk to the front after Saucy-haired Cheerleader’s round of applause? Yup, again.


  2. Linda, I saw your question re why people aren’t commenting. This is the first post that starts to get into something I might want to comment on. People are busy so unless there’s a really important issue, or it’s a lightning rod topic, (or they know and love you), there’s not a lot of incentive to tale the time.

    That said, my most embarrassing moment was on the way to speaking to 100 people when I was 8 months pregnant. My water broke in the parking lot on the way into the speech and I had to explain to the organizers why a puddle was going to form below my skirt if I didn’t drive back to Seattle to have the baby early.

    One other thought re your main link: your web site/entrance to your blog stops me beause there’s not enough visual interest or incentive to come further into your life. The blog itself looks very lovely and is visually engaging. So, one more task on the list of many with this never ending social media business.


    1. Thanks for dropping by, Cynthia. I hadn’t realized there was a problem with the main site — trust me to err on the side of not enough (I tend to run extremely short when I write!). I’ll have to think on the posts, since this doesn’t seem be an area I’m strong in.


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