Hello to whoever is reading this. I didn’t think my social anxiety would affect my college grades. I am taking a public speeching class and my anxiety goes through the roof. In my first speech, I remember walking back to my car but still shaking over. I feel like I’m the only one in class that is experiencing it. I can’t look at my audience in the eyes due to fear of staying frozen. It triggers my trauma in which I experienced in the 4th grade. I was so happy to give my presentation to the class but once I got up to the front, I completely froze. Everyone was looking at me weird and started to laugh. I remember the teacher watching me struggle and I keep stuttering my words. Ever since I’ve been having a huge fear of speaking in public. I fear of people laughing and making fun of me even though I’m 22.
heres the thing: you arent alone in this. public humiliation and public speaking are some of the top fears shared by millions of people. i used to be afraid of public speaking too. i was so afraid of making a mistake and embarrassing myself, that i could never speak to a group of people. finally, i realized that i didnt want to be afraid any more. something that helped me out a lot was practicing speeches in front of friends. i would have them listen to me, and give me feedback. i practiced speaking extremely loudly, and forced as much false confidence into my voice as possible. if i messed up, it didnt matter, because i was with friends and we could laugh about it. finally, when i had to give the presentation/speech, i tried to think about it like i was only talking to my friends. it worked pretty well, and i was able to get through the speech fairly successfully. as i practiced more and more, i became more confident with my abilities. with each speech, i tried to look at one more person in the audience. first, it was just a couple friends. as i got more confident, i was able to make and hold eye contact with every one of my peers.
i think that if you tried some of the same methods i used, it might help you. if you had a friend in that class you could ask them if you could practice with them. chances are that they will agree to this. with most things, public speaking takes time to master, and it can be very difficult to learn. however, it is an extremely practical and important skill to have for job interviews and presentations down the road.
(also, if every one in your class has to give a speech, chances are that they are nervous too, and might be too preoccupied with their stress to notice any mistakes you might make. you can also try some deep breathing exercises to try to calm yourself).
You are not alone, friend. Public speeches can be really stressful! At school, when I heard “public speech” or “oral exam”, I was always paralyzed. I could get myself sick months and months before because of this. Sometimes I even made excuses not to participate, even if that included to miss my exam (definitely not something to do). And I still had many visible reactions: the shaking hands, the voice that goes into highs (which I didn’t suspect the existence before ), the impossibility of looking in the eyes, the thoughts that mix, the cheeks turning red…
Over time, there’s been different things that I found helpful for those moments:
- To echo with @dontworry: to prepare your subject/speech before in order to really know what you’ll talk about and to practice yourself saying it out loud can be super effective. It helps you to improve your diction, to create some automatisms in the way you speak. Also, it will allow you to master your subject and, by extension, to be able to focus on what you say, and less on how you think others are perceiving you.
- Staying hydrated and keeping a bottle of water with you. It may sound silly but sometimes you can have difficulties to speak because your mouth is dry and being stress isn’t really helpful for that. Also having a bottle of water next to you allows you to take some small breaks during your speech.
- To take your time when you speak. To pause between certain sentences. Sometimes we want to rush just to end the thing as soon as possible. Doing little pauses is usually better for both the speaker and the audience.
- To stop thinking or reading what you’ll say the last few minutes before. Most of the time, it’s when we feel like we have forgotten everything, so we panic and we arrive at the moment of the presentation… super anxious. These few minutes before are precious and you can try to use this time to breathe for example. With your belly, 'cause we usually feel a pressure on our chest when we’re stressed and this can affects our breathing. Also to get some fresh air if you can, to try to slow down your heart if it’s eventually racing, to rest your mind for a moment. Mostly to focus on something else.
- I never did this but I remember having a teacher who used to avoid eye contact and he had two techniques: looking behind the audience, far ahead, or sometimes speaking with his eyes raised up, as if he were thinking intensely…! And he was a very good speaker.
- To decide in advance to do something that I would really enjoy, after the speech or after the day. Any activity that allowed me to be like in a little cocoon and just relax. Because I already knew that the situation would be stressful and exhausting. Also being aware that there would be something positive after the speech usually helps me to see the event in an different perspective, less scary.
Just some different ideas to add with the very good advices from @dontworry, but I hope this can be helpful for you too.
In any case, it’s really something you can learn to master over time, even if it means going through some discomfort at first.