Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why?

Speaking in front of a group is intimating for me and for most people, I suspect. It’s probably a fear of being judged, but as an audience member, I rarely sit there waiting to pounce on any mistakes a speaker makes. I think a speaker’s perception of an audience is often wrong. If presenters view their role as performing a service — hopefully in an entertaining way — they might not feel as much fear.

When I started teaching, my classmates and I often had to give presentations in from of the group and that was intimidating, since usually we were constructively evaluating one another anonymously, so there was a little more pressure.

Even student teaching for me was a little scary. How one can be “scared” of first graders I don’t know, but it made me very nervous. That was probably more of a fear of them getting “out of control”, but they certainly let someone know quickly if the information is boring or confusing. When I actually started teaching, I spent more time with middle school students, and even though they also let a teacher know when they’re losing interest, a teacher has a lot more opportunities to use humor and real-life examples to get information across to them.

When I worked as a young woman for a large trade association I had to introduce some speakers for workshops. I felt nervous, but I was just the lead-in person and the audience knew I’d go away in a few minutes in favor of the main event!

Eventually I learned that being well-prepared and knowing my material makes me feel much better about public speaking. Feeling invested in and excited about my subject helps to draw listeners in. The more enthusiastic, even theatrical one can be the better, but that takes some courage, too. People need to be energized and that takes work, confidence and knowledge.

I really don’t care to imagine my audience naked. Please. So I pick out friendly faces and speak to them, looking around, too, to judge how well I’m doing.