Speaking in Public Gives me Bad Dreams

26 Apr

Image from weheartit.com

I’ve always had this fear and dread of speaking in front of a group. You would think that after many years of presentations and speeches from elementary school all the way through university and college, through countless client presentations in my working girl years, the nerves wouldn’t grip me so much at any prospect of having to make a presentation.

Not so.

This morning I had to lead a session at work. It’s this thing we have on a weekly basis, where the entire company (about 30 people) gather in the boardroom while we take turns each week presenting (2 at a time) to discuss creative, thought provoking ideas that exist out in the world to help inspire us in our lives and our work. It’s kind of like our own TED Talks.

My partner and I did our research, put together a Powerpoint presentation – or rather, she did, as I fail miserably at having to do anything Microsoft-related – and even did a practice run-through yesterday morning. Still, that helped in no way to calm my nerves.

Last night, I had a horrible sleep. My night was not restful at all, waking up quite a few times to check the clock to make sure that I hadn’t overslept and also to make sure that my alarm was set. The anxiety also caused me to dream about upcoming my day, in which everything was unravelling in a way that was so wrong. First, my train was cancelled which caused me to be late for my own presentation. A few minutes into the session, I realized that I had left my notes at my desk, which was a two-minute run – which of course was a slow and excruciating one because it was a dream – away from the boardroom. Returning to the boardroom, I realized that the notes I grabbed from my desk were the wrong ones, which meant that I had to do that run back to my desk with my leaden legs. By the time I returned with the proper notes, we had run out of time, and my partner pointed out to me that I had failed to put an important portion of the presentation in the slide show.

It was one of those dreams that was so ridiculous but felt very real, complete with disapproving remarks and looks from management and colleagues.

What did I discover about myself today? It’s not that I have fear of public speaking — I don’t think that’s what my problem is. I think that I speak well in public, if I’m prepared and I’m confident in my material. And that’s just it. It’s the fear of being unprepared, or forgetting/missing something, that paralyzes me. What’s worse is being perceived by the audience as being unprepared. Even thinking about what I would do if someone asked me a question to which I didn’t know the answer gives me those bad butterflies.

In real life, our session ended up being a success this morning — we got lots of positive feedback and everyone seemed genuinely interested in what we were discussing. Nothing went wrong — in fact, my train arrived 2 minutes ahead of schedule, which allowed me to stop at a coffee shop and treat myself to a latté. I arrived nearly a half hour in advance of the meeting time, which gave me plenty of time to set up, review my notes and take a few deep breaths.

I really had nothing to worry about, but I’m suspecting that this experience still won’t make it any easier the next time it’s my turn to lead the session.

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7 Responses to “Speaking in Public Gives me Bad Dreams”

  1. reni April 26, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    i need to be ready from a through z when i’m speaking in public. so being late will freak me out. i prefer to present with a partner, but that partner better not be a slacker because i don’t want to be next to a loser and become a part of the embarrassment. glad that the session ended up successful! xxx

  2. kat April 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    omg you guys would hate my job because that’s all i do – speak to large groups all the time, facilitate and lead sessions. sometimes i wing it but most of the time i’m prepared (esp if i’m speaking to a group of execs).

    glad that it went well and your presentation was a success

  3. Steph S C-O April 27, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    I’m glad it went well!!! You are an excellent speaker!!!! Being late and unprepared would make me discombobulated too. I’m glad my job doesn’t demand presentations. Although my current job has me babbling out loud anywhere I go! 🙂

  4. Leesh April 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    I hate speaking in front of people. It’s a fear of mine. I can talk in front of a small group of my friends but I honestly hate when all eyes are on me. I guess if you know your sh*t, then talking about it should be no problem.

    It’s all the pent up anxiety that gets to us. But at the end of the day, you did a fabulous job right? You should be proud!

  5. Joanne April 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    I’m not a fan of speaking in public. I can’t think properly & I think everything I say comes out in gibberish. That thing when they tell you to picture everyone naked to make it easier… uuhhh.. I think that would make things even worse for me.

    Glad your presentation went well. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. 🙂

  6. courtney April 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    I have the same fear. My public speaking fear is a weird one. I am not at all afraid to teach. I used to teach dance and aerobics (don’t laugh) and I sometimes had up to 75 people in the gym. I’ve also taught college and felt totally comfortable. I am terrified of giving class presentations or of teaching with other teachers watching me though. It’s not rational. And I can never sleep the night before.
    Glad yours went well though.

  7. Maureen May 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    YAY YOU! i’m so happy it went well! wow, what a vivid dream of yours. *phew* it wasn’t real.

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