As many of you will know, bearing in mind I banged on about it enough, I attended an event last week that I found really challenging. I was asked to compere an event at a local shopping centre (Lakeside, so it’s kinda big), and interview Jo Frost, the parenting expert, in front of a crowd of shoppers. We were there to talk about the Book Trust’s ‘Bath Book Bed‘ campaign so I had to take questions from the crowd, follow some prompts, throw some facts in there, wow the crowd with my sparkling personality … that type of thing. And it’s funny, but writing all of that back now, I feel none of the HORROR that I felt in the run-up to last week. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The client had no idea I was nervous at all, and that’s because I had managed, through chance really, to get myself into a state where I was fairly calm and able to do my job professionally and, I like to think, very well, so I thought it would be a good idea to think about the things I did that helped me overcome a fear of public speaking. Here are my top tips.
1. Talk about how you feel
It’s common sense right? But often when I’m feeling stressed I tend to bottle up how I feel and think, “Oh it’ll be fine, I’ll cope with it on my own, I don’t really want to bother anyone.” I do that about a lot of things if I’m honest, but I’m trying hard to be more open about how I feel, hence why I often blog when I’m struggling with things in general, or I need support. This is especially important if, like me, you’re single, and you don’t have anyone at home to bounce off. (Not like that saucy.) Once you vocalise how you feel, and recognise that you’re struggling with feelings of nerves and stress, not only can people help, but it’s one less thing you’ve got bottled up. When I talked about how I was feeling on my blog FB page, everyone was fantastic and gave me great advice, so it’s really worth being open about your feelings (in general, not just when you’re public speaking.)
Breathing correctly and deeply is a well-known coping mechanism and it’s one I used a lot, not just on the day, but in the run-up, whenever I felt overwhelmed. We all know the benefits of breathing in through your nose, and out through your mouth, but JUST DO IT. Trust me, getting all that extra oxygen into your body will settle your stomach and slow your heart rate a little.
The last thing I wanted to do when I woke up on the morning of the event was eat. I honestly felt sick to my stomach, which I’m sure is a very common feeling. But I remembered what I used to do when I had morning sickness, and that’s make myself eat something dry to eat, and eat it little and often. So I toasted a couple of raisin bagels, I leave the butter off normally anyway (#IWillBeASizeTwelveByChristmas), and then I just tore bits off and snacked on them all morning. Have a biscuit, a cracker, something plain – just imagine you’ve got morning sickness and know that it will pass!
I drove to Lakeside and I made sure I put my favourite playlist on in the car as loud as I could possibly bear it. And then I sang, very loudly, and very badly, to every song. We’re talking Craig David, Nightcrawlers, Sean Paul, Sia, Chemical Brothers … all sorts, but my particular favourite, and go-to song when I need lifting, is Faithless’ ‘Insomnia’ – what a tune. So get that nervous energy out of your system and sing!
I’ve mentioned using mantras before and I’m a huge believer in saying things out loud to yourself as a way of giving yourself that pep talk you sometimes need. I’ve done it a lot during this past year when I’ve lacked motivation to get to the gym, or I’ve looked in the mirror and not liked what I’ve seen, and so I did it a lot on the day. There were lots of, “Come on Kate, you’ve got this!” … and, “You are going to do an awesome job today,” and as silly as it sounds, and it is a bit ridiculous, it works. The more you do it though, the less self-conscious you feel and it just becomes second nature. I talk to myself a lot to be fair though as I work from home, but try it and let me know how you get on.
6. Fake it until you make it
I’ve always been told people think I’m a confident person and, for the most part, I guess I am, but there have been many an occasion when I’ve just had to pretend to be confident when really, I’m an absolute wreck. First dates, blogging events, meeting new clients, public speaking, anything that pushes me out of my comfort zone is going to make me waver. But I sometimes start any of those things by pretending I’m confident and before I know it, my nerves have settled and I’m OK. I know more than I give myself credit for sometimes, and I need to remember that and so if I act confident, I become confident. Make sense?
I took this job because yes, I liked the client, but I feel it’s important to challenge myself and do things out of my comfort zone. It’s easy to stagnate and ‘play it safe’ but in my opinion, I can’t grow as a person that way, so as uncomfortable as situations like this can be, I take a lot of pride in looking back on that day, and others like it, knowing that I rose to the challenge and smashed it out of the park. Public speaking might not be a big deal to lots of you, you might thrive on it, and there might be other experiences in life you’re afraid of attempting because of THE FEAR. But I’m here to tell you that you should always go for it. Life is too short to not even try. And you might not believe me when I say everything’s going to be alright, because in that moment, faced with that fear, if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel like you’re dying. But you won’t. And it WILL be OK.
I hope these simple tips help you the next time you’re faced with something that makes you feel like running out of a shopping centre screaming.