Public Speaking and anxiety

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Date Joined Apr 2007
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   Posted 12/9/2008 10:48 AM (GMT -6)   
Good Morning,
I was sitting here think of how anxious public speaking always makes me and I was wondering if others have this same problem and what you find works to help you decrease your anxiety.
Having to stand up in front of people makes me feel on-stage and judged.
Thought and advice please.

Kitt, Co-Moderator: Anxiety/Panic & Depression
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Date Joined Jan 2005
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   Posted 12/9/2008 10:57 AM (GMT -6)   
.....Lil sis
When I was younger I was always worried sometimes to vomitting about speaking in front of class

NOW I am able to go up and I just put my face on lol........
and say what I have to say

Am I nervous ya betcha but if I feel what I have to say is going to help or be a part of helping then I do get into the character(sp) and just go with it
I had to do this many a time with meetings of my staff as I am sure you did but that is entirely a different scenario rigfht

Big sis

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Georgie Girl
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Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 319
   Posted 12/9/2008 1:30 PM (GMT -6)   
In high school, I was reading a poem in class and I passed out.  I ended up in the hospital with them testing me for a brain tumor or epilepsy.  Turned out I had just hyperventilated.  After that, I was terrified to speak in public, couldn't even take communion at church.
This was in the early 70's.
Then in the mid-80s I got a new job that requires me to speak and teach.  After awhile, it became very easy for me and now I don't even think about it.  If I don't know my subject matter though or have a difficult audience, the fright returns. 
Georgie Girl

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Date Joined Apr 2007
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   Posted 12/9/2008 1:50 PM (GMT -6)   

I have taught some classes where no one will speak out.  I did one on sexual assault awareness and no on contributed.  I just kept going and felt like I could have handed them a print out and skipped the  class.

I always feel like I am going to die up in front of a group of strangers.

I can vision the fainting spell.  I was put into the senior speech class when I was a junior, not my choice.  I was the only junior in there and did not know a soul.  I think I have PTSD  idea

Thanks all for your understanding and sharing.




Kitt, Co-Moderator: Anxiety/Panic & Depression
& GERD  Forums
*~* *~*
Not a mental health professional of any kind
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.~Mahatma Gandhi~
Clickable Link: Anxiety-Panic Resources

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2268
   Posted 12/9/2008 2:44 PM (GMT -6)   
I can *definitely* relate & maybe (hopefully) can help you some with this one. :)

First one about judging, I can't say too much. For me, I just keep reminding myself that I am the teacher & that it really doesn't matter what my students think of me. They're there to learn, not to judge & time they spend judging me is off-task behavior. I try to focus on knowing that my sole goal is to get them to learn the material. I remind myself that my own opinion of myself & God's view of me are the most important, followed by what my family & close friends think. Students don't even rate. Ironically, since I adopted that viewpoint, I actually started getting much higher scores on the questionnaires I'd hand out to students. For one presentation I gave for a professional group I belong to where 90% of the participants were university professors, I even managed to pull of a perfect score (and they NEVER give out perfect scores -- even to their colleagues, so imagine my surprise when I got one as an "outsider"). So, it is possible for you to do well but you will need the extra energy that will come from giving up worrying about what they think of you.

Secondly, as far getting students to participate, I have a TON of ideas. I'll post a few below, but I actually used to lecture on student engagement so I have a lot more if you're not comfortable with these.

1. Set up the room into clusters. Circle tables or groupings of chairs work great. It can be less intimidating to have 5 groups of 8 students rather than 40 people staring straight at you. It also encourages more interaction.

2. Pull a student or two aside before you speak, introduce yourself & tell them you plan to call on them. It takes some stress off of them b/c they don't feel so much like they were put on the spot, but it also creates a pressure on them to offer an answer b/c you told them ahead of time. If they try to argue their way out of it, take out your lesson plan & show them the question. Tell them they have some time to prepare & that you will be happy with any answer they give (unless they are jr/sr high students -- then just tell them you're sure they will come up with an impressive answer).

3. If the students know each other, encourage them to call on other people to give the next answer. If not, you can do drawings or pick a seat number for the next person. Sometimes people feel like you're "picking on them" by asking them to answer -- this takes that away.

4. Plan times for the participants to interact with each other. Start with short questions (Y/N, 1-2-3, etc.). Tell the students ahead of time that they will have to report back to the group on their partner's answer. The short, close-ended questions are good to start with b/c students can respond by raising their hands (or number of fingers) rather than giving a verbal answer. After a couple of those, you can (and should) transition to open-ended questions. Depending on the nature of the question, you might consider transitioning back to having the actual person answer (be sure to tell people they won't have to report back on their neighbor's answers for those questions ahead of that question's partner/group-share time).

5. Move around the room. You can assign a student to change overheads or PP slides if needed, but moving around the room does two things. First, it helps take some of the spotlight off of you. Second, it keeps students more attentive to what you're saying.

6. Most importantly do not offer rewards for participation. There are a lot of studies that show this actually hinders participation. If you want to give out candy, do so at a break time. Give it out to the entire group. At that point, you can say that you appreciate everyone's contributions to the group & thought they could all use a chocolate break (or any other cutsie little thing you want to say). I've seen a lot of people try to bribe people for answers. You generally won't get good answers (if any answers) that way. Yes, there are some people who can pull it off, but they are rare. Most of us just feel worse b/c we can't even get people to answer for a bribe.

Anyways, best of luck to you. I'm sure you'll do great! Practice ahead of time. You can even take your meditation word & write it on the top of your lesson plan to remind you to relax. My word is "breathe" -- that way I can be sure I won't pass out :) but you can pick your own.

take care & let me know if there's anything I can do to help,

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 94
   Posted 12/9/2008 11:06 PM (GMT -6)   

I do a lot of public speaking in front of large and small groups. Most of the time the people I am speaking to are strangers. I also testify in court very regularly. I think that this is one area where we can use our anxiety to our advantange. I get anxiety before every speaking engagement but this is normal for all of us. Allow the anxiety/adrenaline to help you gear up.

The biggest thing that I know of that helps me is knowing my subject matter. If I know it and am comfortable with what I am speaking about, I know that I will be fine. If I am unprepared, the anxiety works against me, I begin shaking (only noticeable to me) and I feel like my voice is shaky (again only noticeable to me). You also can try and give your presentation infront of the mirror, watching yourself pretending that the person in the mirror is the audience. Also when you are speaking don't stand in one place, walk around use your hands and arms to make your points. By standing we begin to get "heavy" our knees get weak and we fear that we are going to collapse. Instead move around you will not get the heavy feeling, and the walking around will alow you an extra second to "think" what you are gong to say next.

Hope this helps.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 1683
   Posted 12/10/2008 1:17 AM (GMT -6)   

i understand that public speaking is a huge stressor for many people- im the odd one out- im good at it and (gasp) i almost enjoy it! my students on the other hand.....

whenever they have to do speeches infront of the class and they are nervous, i tell them to pick a friendly face and focus on that one- i often sit at the back of the room and tell them to ignore their classmates and to make eye contact with me. ive had students vomit, come out in hives, faint: all because of the nerves that go with public speaking.

my advice is if you dont feel confident, FAKE it. dont just stand still- but dont rock from one foot to the other or fiddle withg your hands. pay attention to the speed you are speaking at- people tend to rush when nervous. break the ice with a little joke- it will relax you and engage your audience. go to the toilet before you get up and speak. if you lose your place and stumble- just keep going. stopping will draw attention to your minor mistake and people are a lot more forgiving than you think. if you cant make eye contact with your audience, pick a part of the room that you can focus on. use palm cards to jog your memory.

if you are medicated, maybe take your anti-anxiety med a little earlier to coincide with your public speaking engagement.

hope this helps:

Maz XX

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 1303
   Posted 12/10/2008 1:28 PM (GMT -6)   
Oh, last year, my junior year, my English teacher told us we had to do a speech in front of the class...I FLIPPED out!!!

So, I went and talked to her...she undertsood and she didnt make me do the speech in front of everyone on the stage, rather, she allowed me to give m speech directly in front of her in her office. It helped, but I still had breathing problems!

I was so terrified when I went to the doctor a few days before the speech, I actually told my mom to leave so I could talk to my doctor alone and asked him about my anxiety and finally got put on medication for it! I actually thanked my teacher for making us do the speech because I dont know when I finally would have been brave enough to talk about my anxiety!

So, even though I cant give speeches in front of people, I was really glad she gave the assignment because it has helped me SO much! I have her again this year for my AP Literature class and its small(16 students) and we sit in a circle and discuss stuff the whole time, and I actually throw my ideas out there and I can tell she is proud of me by the way she looks at me! It makes me feel really good that I can finally speak my mind. I am usually quiet regardless unless I have something that I believe is, now I speak my important ideas!
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Green Grove
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Date Joined Oct 2008
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   Posted 12/10/2008 4:34 PM (GMT -6)   
Lol :) I have the same problem. Ever since I was young, I would be terrified to the point of shaking if ever put on the spot. And the few times I stood in front of class to speak was pertrfying :) One time I became so anxious, I started laughing. . . and could not stop for nothing. . . the only reason I did not pass out was the fact that the whole class started laughing with me. LOL

Anyway, I'm more confident now, so it would be alright as long as I had my benzo :)
Much Love, Hugs, Peace & Comfort :)

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Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 707
   Posted 12/10/2008 5:03 PM (GMT -6)   


On this subject, I have to be honest and say I try to avoid speaking in public like the plague.  I once was supposed to give a book report in English class in high school and instead of doing the speech chose to get an "F" instead (and it counted towards 1/3rd of our grade).  So, needless to say, I didn't get an A in that class.  I hate public speaking so bad that I couldn't even do the toast at my twin sister's wedding reception as she wanted me to do (I had to have my Dad read what I had written).


Anxiety 2007; IBS 2004; Chronic Hives 2002.  Medications:  Allegra, Zantac, Xanax, Darvocet.

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