Thursday, May 20, 2010


No it's not the fear of shiny things. And it's not the feel of slick floors. It's a much more common fear and one that has kept me from posting for the last couple of days. Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking, something that I and most of the rest of the world shares. Fear of public speaking (or stage fright) is the most common fear in the world. It's more common than fear of spiders or the dark or clowns (and we all know how creepy those clowns can be).

So when a gentleman from a different agency called me last week and asked me whether I would be willing to speak at his group's annual meeting, I know how much of a terrible speaker I am...well...Okay...sure....I'd love to. I'm so eloquent huh? So all last week I fretted about this speech but didn't bother to sit down and actually write it. Over the weekend I fretted more, and slept a lot less, and still didn't write the damn thing. It was only when Sunday night came that I started writing. On Monday (my day off) I worked up a proper speech, created a powerpoint to go along with it, and practiced a couple of time. On Tuesday I was moody, stressed, cramped up, and still not sleeping. I went home that night and practiced a bunch more times. I still wasn't feeling ready but Wednesday morning rolled around anyway. And I went off to speak.

It's strange how when you're talking about something you know, you end up not needing any notes. I spoke for 35 minutes, never once stuttering too badly. I took questions, I made jokes, and overall I think it went really well. Of the three people presenting that day I felt that mine was the most on target. And afterwards I breathed a sigh of relief. I'd had fun. I'd gotten some compliments. And I'd managed to actually sound like I knew what I was talking about. This is the fourth speech I've given this year and so far it was the most relaxing. I might be getting better. Shedding a little of that phobia. At least until the next speaking opporturnity comes around. Then it will know how much I hate speaking...well...Okay and a couple more sleepless nights.


Salt said...

Oh, I'm with you, when you talk about something you know, it's a lot easier to talk.

Also, the process of creating a presentation isn't always to use the presentation you create, sometimes it's just a tool to get your thoughts in order.

Josh said...

I'm thoroughly impressed. Much as I enjoy doing theater, I hate doing speeches. Being able to speak for a half hour and answer questions takes a great level of organization and skill!

Cat B said...

@Salt, that's pretty true. I worked up the powerpoint first. I found that it was much easier to do that and then write the presentation around it. And really I never once looked at my "script". I knew the topic so well I just talked.

@Josh, Thank you!!! I don't know how you do the theater. I would be way too scared to do that. I can't imagine being up in front of an audience of that size. Or memorizing lines. I'm terrible at that. But speeches are getting easier the more I do them.

Keith said...

Public speaking used to terrify me, until I got enough mileage to no longer be terrified. My breakthrough was at my Brother's wedding, where I was the Best Man and had to put myself out there. Once I started, it suddenly all worked out. I emceed the dance auction, and gave the first toast. Ta-dah.

Have you ever seen the Temple Grandin speech from the TED talks? There's a person who should be completely uncomfortable with public speaking. But she absolutely killed.

(Fair warning; she works with companies to make slaughterhouses more humane. I can understand if you'd rather not listen to her. But there's nothing graphic in her speech.)

Cat B said...


I'm glad you were able to get over your fear for public speaking. I couldn't imagine doing a toast. That would be far tougher for me than just this little presentation.

Thanks for the suggestion. Temple Grandin is one of my heroes. Her work on slaughterhouse reform could make life (and death) infinitely more bearable for billions of animals. But I didn't realize that she'd done a Ted talk. I'll have to check it out.