Public squeaking, please help!
May 24, 2018 5:52 AM   Subscribe

I have a four day event coming up with a fair bit of public speaking. A lot of it is general stuff (I'm 'conducting' the event, as it were). My audience is subject matter experts and the top management of my organization. I am TERRIFIED of public speaking. I said yes to this event in part to push through this irrational fear. The event is tomorrow. I'm panicking, big-time. Please bring your best tips and tricks that would help me not dissolve into a blubbering mess. Thank you!
posted by Nieshka to Work & Money (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I would get a prescription for a beta blocker. It does wonders for that awful jittery feeling. I’ve used them for job interviews before.
posted by hazel79 at 5:56 AM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hi, I do great at public speaking, or so I'm told. I'm terrified as well! My magic trick is to always wear a jacket so you can't see me sweating through my shirt. And remind myself that observers don't see my nervous tics if I don't call them out.

So: wear armor and keep charging forward no matter what!
posted by bfranklin at 6:08 AM on May 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

Channel/impersonate someone who would just breeze through the situation. Up to you if it's Darth Vader or Deadpool. Before the event, imagine that character dealing with the situation, play the right music, get an accessory to remind you.

Also, if you're mostly MC-ing - unless you do something completely egregious people will tune out everything that isn't the time of the next coffee break or the next speaker's name. Much less opportunity to mess up. Just avoid jokes if you're not a joking person in real life or if you like niche humour that may not land with the entire audience.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 6:24 AM on May 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

If you have any idea what you're going to have to say (who you're going to introduce, etc) practice tonight in front of a mirror, a camera, or friends. Practice at least 3 times and you should have a little bit of a backup script if your brain goes 100% on autopilot :)

Definitely wear a jacket.

Finally, deep breaths where you exhale for longer than you inhale will calm you down. I find singing really loudly forces me to do the same thing, so if you have a car maybe belt out some songs on the way to work. Good luck! After the first day the "worst case scenario" anxiety should hopefully calm down.
posted by clarinet at 6:25 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I second bfranklin's idea of armour. Or a costume! I try to wear something that makes me feel great and think of it as a role I am playing. You could be "The Conductor"...

In a world where no one know where they are going, only one person can help them stay on track. Nieshka rules them all as the Conductor.
posted by machine at 6:25 AM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

In public speaking, fake confidence is as good as real confidence.

What are your goals? Is your goal to convince the experts and executives of your ideas? Is your goal to get information and ideas from the experts and executives? Is your goal to have experts and executives share ideas? Is your goal to keep long-winded mansplainers from dominating the discussion and boring everyone? Is your goal to get a decision made? Is your goal clarification of differences or achieving consensus?

Or has someone else set the agenda and your goal is to keep things moving crisply and with good humor?

Think of times you've seen someone with the same goals acting with confidence, and fake being them.
posted by clawsoon at 6:26 AM on May 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

If have not yet done so get your hair professional ly styled and consider what you will wear. In these situations i opt for conservative business suits, pant suits work best when you need to be on a stage or sit on a stage. You will possibly need the jacket pocket for the receiver. If you will be using a microphone find out what kind eg radio mic worn over ears means best skip elaborate ear jewellery. Lapel mic needs a lapel to clip it to, wont work with thin blousey fabric. Or a handheld or on a stand? Be there early enough to get a grip on the tech side.
If you use ppt, inform the event organiser asap. Bring the ppt on a stick plus store somewhere accessible eg drpbox, in case u lose the stick.
Test it before you begin.
Use cue cards for notes, names, etc you need. They dont look so obvious .
posted by 15L06 at 6:31 AM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I do a fair bit of public speaking and really enjoy it, but still get the physiological nervous reactions — flop sweats, butterflies in my stomach, shaky hands, cracking voice. But that only lasts a few minutes and then dissipates when I get going.

Early on these physiological reactions started a vicious cycle — my body seemed nervous, so that got to my head. Now I just accept these reactions as inevitable and prepare myself for them.

So for sweat — jacket is good, also prescription strength antiperspirant. Also, patterns hide sweat better than solids.

For shaky hands — if I have to wear a lavaliere mic, I ask someone else to put it on me so I don’t fumble it and feel foolish.

Everything else? Gone within 2 minutes of starting to speak.

Also, don’t apologize about anything. Doubly so if you’re a woman. Don’t say you’re tired, don’t say you haven’t had enough coffee, don’t say your voice isn’t loud enough. Don’t doubt yourself and don’t plant the seed of doubting in your audience.

Even after many years, I still want to apologize for something when it’s time to start speaking and I don’t allow myself to do it. You have something to say and they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t want to hear it.

Knock ‘em dead tomorrow!
posted by kittydelsol at 6:34 AM on May 24, 2018 [20 favorites]

I do better when I think of it as helping people—
Your presence is to help introduce, to guide, and to welcome folks with a smile.
Everybody is there for the same reason- but they need someone to lead the event.
How cool that it is you!
posted by calgirl at 6:57 AM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm also great at public speaking and have had great speeches in front of 600 people - in my experience, people get themselves hyped up about the number of people and the stage and forget that a good presentation to 5 people is no different than a great presentation to 600 people. So - grab a couple of colleagues today, do a dry run, take feedback and incorporate it. Do the same presentation the same way tomorrow!

Some more tangible things to think of (longer-term than a tomorrow presentation probably):

- Don't overscript - know your material inside and out, give yourself some key notes to keep you on track (and to navigate technical or data-related stuff) but allow yourself to talk as close to the way you talk to your colleagues day-to-day;
- Learn to speak slower - nearly everyone on stage speeds up. Take pauses, draw your sentences out. Leave a watch near you so you can be aware of the time and on pages of notes give a brief outline of where you'd expect to be at various times;
- Be honest that you're nervous - this is many people's #1 fear and it can disarm an audience to know you're not comfortable up there but have chosen to push through;
- Have a couple of scripted jokes or lines ready for the inevitable moment where something goes wrong - one I really like is for situations where technology is failing you. Lets say your slides aren't advancing - to buy tech some time to fix it, ask the audience how many of them have had that happen to them at some point. Most people will raise their hands. I then say "Glad to know I'm not alone - when I was a kid, I was promised that we'd be able to teleport to the moon by now, but here I am getting red-faced in front of a group because my slides won't advance." Generally gets an empathetic laugh from most which helps to lighten the mood;
- Be passionate if it's a subject you can be passionate about - I think a lot of people, in an effort to be "professional", become clinical in their execution of a speech. Every speech I remember was from someone who's heart was in it and who spoke from the heart about why the particular subject matters to them. Stories from when you were a kid that you can link to themes really endear you to an audience. Quirky humour can be hit or miss but helps to build a connection with your audience.
posted by notorious medium at 6:58 AM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this will help you, but I always find that me (and a lot of people) present better whent they have disarmed their fears...

So... what are you most afraid about....

Some people are afraid of looking stupid if they don't know the answers to certain things...

For this case, I recomend that you spend some time really thinkng about which part of your lecture or presentation are you most nervous/unsure about. Perhaps you are afraid that you'll get a bunch of questions about this section... in this case, it is very helpful to know your coping strategy for this section in advance. If this is some kind of academic conference or some place in which you can afford not to be the '100% top expert' then you can say at the begining of the section something like "I am going to go through this slide, but I want to warn everyone in the audience that I won't be able to answer every question about this part, so I may have to throw out some tough questions to the audience, if they come. Or maybe you can introduce some of your colleagues in the beginning: "Welcome to my presentation. We've worked on this in a team and I wanted to let you know that I'll all be letting Pat and Tracey take questions.'

Additionally, I think it is important to understand the essence of what you will present or discuss. I always think it is a good exercise to see if you can sum up your presentation into a couple of sentences. What is it exactly you want to say? If you can explain it in a nice summary to yourself, this will help you structure your presentation.
posted by jazh at 7:03 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I do it all the time and mostly love it. But when I am not "in the zone" I can freak out. Here's what helps me stay in the zone.

- Prepare well but not a comical amount - make sure you know what you're doing and have done the work but don't make it the only thing you think about for the next 24 hours
- Set yourself up well w/r/t stress, food, drink, bathroom, etc (i.e. don't drink a ton of water right before being on stage, make sure you've eaten, make sure you're as well-rested as you can be)
- Wear special underwear! Or something that is sort of yours and yours alone so that you don't feel like this entire thing is about other people
- Set expectations as jazh says above
- Be gracious and kind to people and think of yourself as a host. Say thank you. Focus on other people who may be having a more difficult time
- People will follow your lead because they see you as being in a position of power. They want you to succeed. Find the people smiling and nodding in the audience (they are always there) and have them in your pocket if you need a quick "IS THIS GOING OK" check.
posted by jessamyn at 7:31 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

The thing that helped me a lot was the realization that if I knew what I was supposed to be doing and saying and how a non-nervous person would do it, I could simply do that myself and it wouldn't matter if I actually was nervous because the end result would be the same as if I weren't. That not only helped me feel okay about being nervous, it actually made me less nervous.

I also find it helpful to focus on the real purpose of the task at hand. Your job is not to impress people or be cool or charismatic; it's to convey specific information. If you tell people what they need to know you're doing it right.

(Basically what clawsoon said above.)
posted by Redstart at 7:36 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

My job is primarily to keep things moving on schedule and cue up speakers, some with short summaries. Unfortunately that also involves pithy observations when I thank a speaker at the conclusion of their talk, and I have little to no idea of the specifics of the talks themselves. And I am most frightened that my summing up would be irrelevant or silly or I would've missed something in my panic-induced haze.
That, and the fact that I speed up 10x when speaking in front of people, and I don't speak slowly to start with.
Apparently I present a lot of fake confidence when attempting public speaking of any sort, so nobody takes my fears seriously at all! :(
My goal is not become someone who is remembered at all, ideally.
Thank you so much for all the suggestions so far!
posted by Nieshka at 7:49 AM on May 24, 2018

Seconding beta blocker. I literally just gave a presentation and could not have done it without taking 1/2 a xanax (which I normally use a full one when flying). I can't remember the mg per pill.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 8:01 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately that also involves pithy observations when I thank a speaker at the conclusion of their talk, and I have little to no idea of the specifics of the talks themselves. And I am most frightened that my summing up would be irrelevant or silly or I would've missed something in my panic-induced haze.

That's a reasonable concern to have, though I'm confident you'll be able to find a solution that doesn't require you panicking. :-)

Is the pithy summarizing by you strictly necessary?

Could you ask each speaker to end with their own pithy, one-sentence summary? Say that up-front so that everyone knows it's an expectation. Opening remarks: "At the end of every presentation, I'd like you to conclude with a pithy, one-sentence summary of your talk."

(If you find that you're feeling extra confident, there'll be room for some humour there, as some people are incapable of pithiness: "That was a great summary at the end. Not pithy [big friendly smile], but we'll let it slide this time. [big friendly smile]." And some people will forget: "You missed the one-sentence summary at the end of your talk. Shall I attempt it [big friendly smile], or would you like to? [big friendly smile]")

That, and the fact that I speed up 10x when speaking in front of people, and I don't speak slowly to start with.

This is where you fake being someone who speaks at a moderate pace.
posted by clawsoon at 8:02 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Apparently I present a lot of fake confidence when attempting public speaking of any sort, so nobody takes my fears seriously at all! :(

That's great! No one watching has ANY IDEA what is fake confidence versus real confidence! They can't read your mind - if you are presenting fake confidence, it all reads as confidence to your audience! You're already a confident speaker!

Don't worry too much about making pithy off the cuff observations. No one cares, I mean that in the nicest possible way (and honestly, knowing no one cares makes speaking easier for me). Since you're the MC, whenever you're up there is when people will be checking their phones and making a run for the bathroom. You can prep a few generic phrases "Thank you very much Blahblah, it's refreshing to have a new perspective on Widgets from someone who typically works with Sprockets!" "Thank you, Blahblah! In the interest of time, I'd like to move us right along to our next presenter..." "Thank you, Blahblah! It looks like we're running ahead of schedule, so we'll take a quick break and will resume at 11:00 with Next Speaker." You can make a few notes while they're talking. Maybe prep a few questions to ask yourself for each speaker, to help prompt some closing statements (what's the talk about? What does this person usually work on? What's their takeaway message here?) Even if you have literally nothing to say after they're done, you can have a fallback statement like "Thank you Blahblah! You explained Widget Theory so well that I have nothing to add!"

A few tips:

-Nerves will probably make you want to pace, and unconsciously sway from side to side on your feet. It will help if you have a podium or table to keep one hand on and ground yourself a bit. Standing still will feel weird and unnatural because you are so nervous. It will not look weird. A few steps now and then is fine, but try to catch yourself if you find yourself pacing back and forth, back and forth across the front of the room.

-As you mention, nerves also make speakers talk WAY faster and quieter than they think they're talking. If your voice sounds unnaturally slow and loud to you, you're doing good. Speaking louder also helps reduce the squeaky voice and chronic throat clearing problems. Talk from your gut, not from your neck.

-If you have a friendly coworker or two in the audience, ask them in advance if you can use them for eye contact while you're up there. It will help you feel more grounded, and also looks more natural if you're able to focus in on individual people and not just talking to the wall behind everyone's heads.

-Break your speaking time down into chunks. If you're thinking "oh no it's FOUR DAYS and I have to speak during this, this, this, and this, and this too, and-" of course that's overwhelming and scary to think about. The first couple times you're up there will be the scariest and then after that it gets easier and easier. Focus on getting past the first speaking slot. Then focus on the next one.
posted by castlebravo at 8:16 AM on May 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

Bring water with you if you can - room temperature or warmer if it doesn't gross you out. Go to the bathroom as close to the start of your speechifying as possible. Talk way, way more slowly then you feel you need to.

If you're using a mic, find a sound crew person and ask them how it works, how far you should hold it from your mouth, what direction it's designed to pick up sound from, etc, and try to practice with it if you can.

Don't apologize or tell everyone you're nervous. If people notice, they'll notice and forgive you the same way they would have if you told them in advance. If they don't notice, then great, they didn't notice!

Before stepping out, take a deep, slow breath in. As you're doing so, tense up your shoulders (raise them a little if that feels natural), your abs, your face, clench your fists, etc... Then let it all go with a whoosh as you exhale. Do 3-5 times right before going onstage, then think about the most adorable baby animal you can and imagine how it would feel to be cuddling with it. Let yourself smile, or even laugh. If you can't do the more obvious tensing stuff, still breathe deeply and clench your toes/fists or something, or pretend you're rolling your shoulders to tense them. It helps.

Finally, don't distract yourself with your phone/other contacts for at least 30 minutes before you go on if you can help it. YMMV of course, but I've found that if I distract myself when I'm feeling nervous instead of actually coping with it, the nervousness tends to smack me right in the face as I'm about to step onstage/start talking/whatever, and that is way more unpleasant.

You'll do great. MCs don't need to be great public speakers - don't worry about being clever or humorous. Just do your job; the audience is there to see the presenters.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:16 AM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

  • Hold a pen or grip the podium so you don't flap or fidget with your hands;
  • Pick out a few kind looking people in the audience--left, right, and center--and direct remarks to each of them in turn;
  • Regarding saying something about the previous person, the easy choice is to tie whatever their presentation was about to the next one. Presumably somebody thought about the presentation order so that each talk either builds upon or presents a counterpoint to the previous one.
  • When in doubt or you have nothing to say about the previous presentation, filler like "I could listen to X talk all day about Y, but there are many terrific presentations ahead and we need to stay on schedule to be fair to everyone. Next up is a speaker I'm really looking forward to hearing: Z is blah blah blah" always works. Have a few generic fillers in mind to use when necessary.

  • posted by carmicha at 8:19 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

    Oh and if you need a physical way to discharge nervous energy, clench your toes in your shoes. It's invisible and has the added benefit of grounding you.
    posted by carmicha at 8:22 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

    So much good advice here.

    I wanted to point out a line in your own post that is really important: I said yes to this event in part to push through this irrational fear.

    That's so great that you did this. Hold on to that notion and combine it with some of the perspective and techniques above. You'll do great.
    posted by veggieboy at 8:50 AM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

    Cup of Calm is like herbal Xanax. Not as good obviously but can take the physical effects of nerves down a few notches. You can probably find it at your grocery store or Walmart.

    (Agreeing with folks above that Xanax or the like is a good idea for the future)
    posted by slipthought at 8:54 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

    One thing that helps me in these situations is to remind myself that every single person in that room is completely rooting for me. No one wants to sit through boring speakers. They’re all hoping this will be the best presso! The room is full to the brim with positive energy! Soak up that positive energy in the moments before you start. It’s not “you against the audience” - They are all on your side.

    You’re going to do great!
    posted by greermahoney at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

    My job is primarily to keep things moving on schedule and cue up speakers, some with short summaries. Unfortunately that also involves pithy observations when I thank a speaker at the conclusion of their talk, and I have little to no idea of the specifics of the talks themselves. And I am most frightened that my summing up would be irrelevant or silly or I would've missed something in my panic-induced haze.

    I'm a professional speechwriter, but not your professional speechwriter (BNYPS). This is easier than you think. Is there any marketing material that includes information on the speakers? Have you been provided with any speaker bios? If not, google them: Look for Websites, LinkedIn, Social Media. Subject matter experts specialize thematically, and push a few key ideas. Take notes on each speaker as you search out information on them, summing up relevant, interesting points about their backgrounds. More importantly, take notes on their key ideas, and the themes that link those ideas.

    That, and the fact that I speed up 10x when speaking in front of people, and I don't speak slowly to start with.

    Turn your notes into a script for yourself. Use a 16 point font, and double space it, so it will be easy to read. If you'll have a lectern available give yourself a two inch margin at the bottom. Then write out your notes in simple conversational language. To help you speak more slowly, put the most key words in ALL CAPS and the second most important key words in boldface. This will help you speak/read more clearly, and sound more like you're just talking. It will also help you scan your notes faster.

    The easiest thing you can do to force yourself to speak more slowly is overenunciate. Really move your mouth and lips as you say each word. No one will be able to see you doing this from a stage. But even if they do, they won't really focus on what you're doing. The act of really using your mouth muscles will automatically reduce your speed and increase your clarity.

    Good luck!
    posted by Violet Blue at 9:13 AM on May 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

    Good for you for taking on the challenge!

    I lead the speaker coaching team at Duarte, Inc., and if you think it would help, I'd like to offer you a free virtual session with one of our coaches today. Sometimes a conversation with an experienced guide can help more than anything.

    DM me if you're interested, and I'll send you some available times.
    posted by ToucanDoug at 9:17 AM on May 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

    I have had success adopting the mindset of a seasoned newscaster who is accustomed to being taken seriously and is doing a favor to this group by MC-ing. Helps with the tendency to talk fast and high-pitched. In particular, do your best to avoid nervous laughter.

    If you’ll be moderating a Q&A session after each speaker, you can avoid an awkward silence by (during the talk) preparing one of your own for the speaker to address “while the audience is formulating their own questions” if there isn’t a hand raised immediately.

    Think of all the times you’ve seen a nervous speaker and felt bad s/he was so wound up. Everyone will be on your side here! They want you to lead them through the day and that’s what you’re going to do for them.
    posted by lakeroon at 1:45 PM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

    Prrrrractice, prrrrrrrractice, prrrrrrractice. I talk so fast that in real life I make Daveed Diggs-as-Jefferson sound like that cartoon dog. But I am okay on stage because I have gone over the substance (not the exact words) out loud a dozen times or more until doing that talk just seems like a routine action. My brain is truly only halfway involved at that point, and not generating thoughts at high speed that require my speech to speed up to match.

    If you have the time, The Articulate Advocate is a book for lawyers but is great on physical preparation to speak, as well as gestures (which will also slow you down). It won't turn you into a stunningly witty MC but can help you to respectability as a speaker.
    posted by praemunire at 2:59 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

    Don't feel like you need to go out and get a prescription for a beta blocker now, but it's worth considering for next time. Benzodiazapenes like Xanax, Valium, etc. are not what you're looking for. Your doctor would probably prescribe something like propranolol/Inderal. It essentially dampens anxiety symptoms, slows you down so that you don't show any outward signs of nervousness like shaking or sweating. Works amazingly well! And will make you sleepy afterwards. I started using small doses for public speaking starting about a decade ago. I was ridiculously scared of public speaking. After using beta blockers for a few presentations, I eventually got to a point where I started feeling comfortable enough to go without them (I've even planned to take them at certain points, then just plain forgotten). No one is more amazed than I am about how comfortable I've gotten with public speaking, just by doing it over and over again. A decade ago, I would truly not have believed this was possible. So, the beta blockers were not a crutch; they really were a bridge.

    And also, just forcing yourself to practice your opening, and then the whole presentation 2-3 times really does go a long way.
    posted by bennett being thrown at 3:43 PM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

    Seconding getting a friendly face or two to sit in your line of vision. Ask them to smile at you, because someone smiling at you makes you feel good, and you'll probably smile back unconsciously, which will make you seem relaxed.

    This might depend on the presentation topics, though.
    posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:47 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

    I used to teach public speaking:

    1. Talk to people before the speech. Ask for names. It breaks up the audience, and there are fewer strangers. Ask questions to get a feel of what people may want from your presentation.

    2. If you can move and walk during your speech, do it. It often prevents people who whisper from doing so.

    3. Stop to ask if there are any questions. It gives you a chance to catch your breath, and get immediate feedback.

    4. Dress well. If you feel like the best-dressed in the room, it gives you an extra grain of confidence.

    5. Smile where appropriate.

    6. It is okay to make mistakes. People won't notice -- and there is no death penalty for giving a mediocre speech.

    7. Learn from your speech and improve from your experience.

    8. You do not have to answer every question. If it is not the scope of the speech, say it politely. You are even allowed not to know all the answers -- but you can tell the person you can look into it and get back to them.

    9. Do a dress rehearsal at home, or even in the actual room if possible.

    10. Do two mental rehearsals -- the first where everything goes right, and the other where everything goes wrong. Equipment goes bust. Questions are hostile -- but then think what will be your Plan B. Having a back up plan does wonders.

    11. Take it easy, be prepared, and good luck!
    posted by Alexandra Kitty at 4:00 PM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

    My job is primarily to keep things moving on schedule and cue up speakers, some with short summaries. Unfortunately that also involves pithy observations when I thank a speaker at the conclusion of their talk, and I have little to no idea of the specifics of the talks themselves.

    Make your speakers give you the after-talk remarks in advance, in writing. Ask them for a two sentence summary (or whatever it is that you want) that you'll say before the next speaker comes on.

    Read over them in advance as you'll probably need to change some of the grammar to fit. If a speaker doesn't get back you, just say "A big thank you to Jane Smith of XYZ organization".
    posted by yohko at 5:02 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

    keep things moving on schedule and cue up speakers, some with short summaries

    You don't need to have pithy, entertaining summaries. Just, "that was Mari Clement talking about next year's banana harvest schedule. Next up is..." Give them the name & topic of the speaker who just left, because people won't remember what that person said in their intro, and a 3-5 word description will help cement it in their heads.

    For the actual speaking part:
    1) Speak slower than feels comfortable. Nervousness makes you talk fast. Talking VERY slow is just perceived as "slightly odd;" talking fast is hard to understand. Practice a few standard phrases out loud ("thank you for that presentation; now let's hear from..."), and practice saying them as slowly as you can without sounding like you're actually pausing between words.

    2) Dressing well is good; dressing comfortably is more important. You need the confidence that comes with an outfit that makes you feel ready to take on the world - whatever that is.

    3) Clench your butt before speaking. This will improve your posture, make you project your voice better, and give you something to focus on that's not the stage or the microphone. (This is a very useful technique for speaking without a mic, but it still helps when you have one.)
    posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:48 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

    Oh, you guys, the conference is almost done (we have a couple of short informal sessions left) and I felt like I had a big, invisible, international group of kind folks cheering me on from the sidelines. Thank you, thank you so much! There was SO MUCH good advice here - I wrote down a rough script, practised about five times, not trying to be word-perfect, just focusing on speed and clarity of speech. I got my hair professionally styled, took deep breaths, clenched my butt, and faked a huge, confident smile, when I did fuck up (the one advice I disregarded at my peril - I'd already picked out clothes for day 1 which were fancier and hence less comfortable under the big hot spotlight), I moved on without apologizing. Sometimes shit happens when the bright light hits your face.
    By day #2 I was making jokes and going off-script. By the evening I had had several compliments from very senior people in the organization about how easy I made it seem - darkly hinting that I may now be 'designated emcee till the end of time'. The evening was actually, honestly fun.
    Does it mean I'll volunteer the next time something like this comes around? Eh, I'm not sure. But do I feel rather good about myself right now? Yes. In my anxious, self-deprecation-hiding-serious-self-esteem issues, perpetually tired and overtaxed life, this is a lovely change. And I am very grateful to all of you!
    posted by Nieshka at 11:11 AM on May 27, 2018 [14 favorites]

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