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I lost my public speaking mojo

It used to be fun; now speaking in public makes me start shaking. How did this happen?

You may never know why, says our elder. But there are things you can do to help you get your confidence back.

Dear EWC

So, I don’t know how it happened but I somehow managed to lose my confidence in speaking aloud to an audience. Last year, at school, I was fine with speaking in front of huge audiences. In fact, I did it a lot just for fun. When the teacher wanted someone to read aloud in class, I would be first to raise my hand and I’d do it confidently. However this year, It’s been like my worst nightmare. I’m not scared of reading aloud but for some reason, my whole body starts shaking and unfortunately, so does my voice. I have a new English teacher this year and she’s the type that picks on people to read, out of nowhere, to see if they’re paying attention. I have been picked on multiple times and each and every time, I start reading and my voice starts shaking and I get annoyed and it shakes even more. My teacher thought I was laughing and moved the person next to me away from me and to the other side of the room. I don’t know what happened but what I need to know is maybe a solution of how it could be resolved. I don’t know how in the space of two months, I am now unable to read with confidence. Please help.

Lloyd replies

Hi there. I appreciate your frustration. It would be great to figure out what the root cause is that led to this change in your comfort level with public speaking, but you may never know. So let’s just try to figure out where to go from here.

As you well know, and experienced, these types of behavior issues can become a vicious cycle where one’s anxiety results in a poor performance, which increases one’s anxiety, which causes and even poorer performance, and so on. So the trick is to break that cycle.

Since public speaking occurs frequently in this one class, if you haven’t done so already, ask to speak to the teacher, and explain your issue. That confession shifts her from someone who thinks you are goofing off to someone who is empathetic and willing to help. You can even ask her to play a role in getting back your confidence. Something like, “Ms. Teacher, when I’m speaking in front of the class, if my voice starts to shake, can you please ask me to pause, take a deep breath or two, and encourage me to continue when I’m ready?” Of course, tweak that message as you would say it, but I think she would be glad to support you.

My other suggestion isn’t exactly rocket science, but I do think it is a good way to work back into your state of confidence that you had last year. Start small and work your way up. In your bedroom, stand in front of a mirror and practice speaking/reading out loud, you being the only audience. Next step, involve a sibling or one parent or one friend until you’ve mastered that. Obviously the idea is to keep adding one or two folks at a time until you are just as comfortable with 10 as alone with your mirror. And a room with 100 is just 10 groups of 10. Progress at your own pace and if you stumble go back to a comfortable audience and work your way up again. No judgment.
So even though you may not find the “why did this happen” answer, that’s OK. What’s important is that you get back into your public speaking stride so the world can hear what you have to say. I’m rooting for you.

Letter #: 452569
Category: School

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