Is it just me, or does this happen to other people? Is it normal?
What I’m saying is…have you ever experienced feeling a tight knot, a fist-like pressure on the pit of your stomach, days before you are scheduled to speak in public? And, the feeling intensifies accompanied by cold sweaty palms and your heartbeat is in concert with your breathing, minutes before you stand in front of an audience? I call it “physiological anxious state of being”.
I don’t know about you, but I still go through this predicament, especially if the scope or topic that I am to speak about is outside of my area of knowledge or comfort zone. Although it does not grossly affect my thought process nor my concentration, it just feels…weird. Of course I prepare. Who doesn’t? I have this 2×4 inches cue cards with scribbled pointers or punch lines often highlighted with yellow-colored marker that I hold on to, like a security blanket, to channel me to the right course of my message.
Speaking in public is not my best suit. If I could get away from it, it’s Hallelujah moment for me. But of course, this seldom happens; actually, it never did happen because a big part of my job is to be in front of my staff during meetings, or in front of colleagues when I make presentations relevant to the scope of my career/profession. At least, I am within my area of expertise and through the years, have amassed the ability to present it, with effective transfer of information. So, just let me speak anything related to my profession, my job, and I think I’ll be fine.
It is a different story though, when I am in front of a big crowd, standing at the podium, and speaking about something else. There’s where my “fight-or-flight” physiological reaction comes in. I have to muster all the courage and determination that I could build up and, as soon as the adrenaline soars up, my nerves calm down. And, when it’s over, I am the first one to congratulate myself (of course silently) for yet another hurdle outwitted.
I am in awe when I listen to those who have the gift of fluidity and self-expression (or could it be considered a talent?), and are comfortable facing and talking to an audience. One particular person whom I admired and wowed me, was author Elizabeth Gilbert when I saw and heard her speak at ICAN’s (Institute for Career Advancement Needs) Women’s Leadership Conference. She has that ability to draw me into the core of her message. Fluid, spontaneous, and she could hold her audience to full focus and attention. No notes or cue cards, or tele-prompter…it all came from within her; just like a wi-fi downloading the data in her brain at a high-speed, then funneled and transmitted to her audience.
So as you may want to know, I am a person whose pen and hand works faster than my mouth and vocal cords. That being said, I mostly prefer to sit in one corner of a room, or a bench at the park, or a secluded place in a coffee shop, with a pencil and a yellow note pad as my faithful ally, while I transform what is my head into words, phrases, sentences, and paragraph. You just have to read it.
Each one of us experience different levels of anxiety and go through various mechanisms of coping. If and whenever we come face to face with our internal demons or geniuses, it’s entirely up to us how to deal with it.