speaking where others might hear

Do you enjoy public speaking? Admit it. The lights shine on your pretty face and words on the teleprompter fall effortlessly from your lips.

People cheer your name. Collectively throngs of listeners openly weep from inspiration.

Yeah. Me neither.

The reality of public speaking is terrifying to me. I like attention in small doses but I want to hide when faced with a speech. Maybe it’s the large crowds I find daunting. It all seems scary to me.

Remember the episode from the Brady Bunch when Jan was in a debate and her dad recommended she visualize the audience in their underwear? Not sure if that works in real life but I always loved that episode.

how can this be?

You may wonder how a seemingly confident mermaid, burlesque dancer, zebra princess, vamp, painter, (insert your own attributes here as I have run out) could possibly loathe public speaking. Fear.

  • Fear I will say the wrong thing. Sometimes I can’t read my own notes and I have never used a teleprompter
  • Fear I will have toilet paper stuck to my shoe, spinach in my teeth, etc.
  • Fear I will forget what I am saying mid sentence and start stammering as I try desperately to remember
  • Fear of boring people to death with my droning presentation. Can’t you just see them keeling over in the aisles with drool hanging from their slack gaping mouths?

See! There’s lots of things to legitimately be afraid of regarding public speaking. I considered adding that I fear the earth opening up and swallowing me whole but thought it might be a bit over the top.

reality sets in

Although I don’t speak in front of thousands of people at one sitting, I yap with the public all day long. One reason I love retail is I have the opportunity to meet new people and talk away the hours.

thinking of you in your underwear
thinking of you in your underwear

Part of the interaction is prescribed (never scripted though). A laundry list of specials and new product is conveyed to customers through speech. Isn’t that public speaking?

a little more public

Way back the bridal days (circa 1991-2005), I participated in expert panels at local bridal fairs. It never troubled me as there was no written speech to memorize. I knew my stuff and loved sharing knowledge with others.

During my tenure as an undergrad I had numerous group/individual presentations. At first they left me with sweat dripping everywhere (gross, I know).

Once I mastered (sorta) PowerPoint, sweat calmed down as my body relaxed. It wasn’t my favorite activity, but it became bearable.

By the time I completed the MBA program, I no longer worried about how I looked or sounded. Sometimes I was quirky and/or goofy  which led to a more authentic experience.

what’s the difference anyway?

Why was I able to conquer the fear in grad school and not before? Practice. I knew most of the others in the program and understood they were at least as anxious as I was.

What is the worst thing that could happen from public speaking? Rotten vegetables are not readily available to throw. I probably wont be yanked offstage by a giant shepherds crook.

lesson learned; own it

Seems simple. If I enter a public speaking engagement empowered with the fact that the earth will not swallow me whole, I will be OK. Who cares if I forget what I am saying? Just keep talking until I remember.

No one knows if I screw up. If I act as though I own my words, I appear believable. There is always the possibility of imagining everyone around me in their underwear…

How do you feel about public speaking? Share your thoughts, stories. If you are a successful speaker please feel free to share advice.

This post is inspired by Mama Kat’s weekly writing prompt. 3.) Public speaking.

3 thoughts on “speaking where others might hear

  1. Eat Clean. Live Dirty. says:

    I am a social butterfly. I love people and chatting it up. I was great in retail. But I loathe public speaking (which you can imagine did not bode well for my days in PR when I would pitch to a room full of potential clients). But practice – as you mentioned – did help. Now that I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the past 7 years, it’s back to sweaty palms, shaking knees, and a vibrato speaking voice. Even in front of my son’s first grade class. Shameful. But your post has inspired me. After all, I’m pretty sure they aren’t armed with rotten vegetables or shepherds’ hooks. P.S. Your header pic is priceless!


    1. miriamgomberg says:

      Welcome Leigh! I’m also a social butterfly and talk to random people (to my children’s chagrin) everywhere. It certainly is different though when the spotlight is on you.

      Someone once suggested I join Toastmasters or some other speaking group to get over the fear once and for all. Maybe next year…

      Thanks for the compliment on my mermaid pic. Taken out in the Nevada desert, the shoot was a total blast. XO


  2. Kat says:

    I despise public speaking. Despise it. And it is exactly because I don’t practice enough to feel confident that I won’t be a stammering fool.


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