I suck at public speaking

Hey everyone,

So I had to pitch in front of my class for about a minute, but it did not go as well as I wanted. I practiced, knew exactly what I was going to say, but ended up getting so anxious and nervous before going up in front of my class. The pitch wasn't horrible but you could tell my voice was super shaky and I ended up only remembering/reciting half my pitch and was one of the worst.

I'm super tough on myself and pride myself on being one of the best students in the business school. I do extremely well in group settings (led a meeting in my internship) and a great one on one talker/interviewee. I've gotten a full-time offer already and have a ton of leadership positions but for some reason I have ZERO confidence when I stand up in front of my class even though the class is meaningless. How do I work/fix this? I have heard a lot of the typical solutions, but it is hard for me to get past this mental block.

I am pretty sure the best way is to keep throwing myself in situations like this until I get comfortable. I really want to be able to speak in front of crowds and this is really bothering me. Thanks so much!

Comments (36)

Aug 29, 2017

Best cure is practice. Like almost every other skill, the more you do it, the better you get. I used to be incredibly nervous when it came to public speaking, and after loads of classes through B-school, and then became far more confident. It got to the point where I was comfortable speaking for 20+ minutes during group presentations in front of 50+ people. Practice, practice, practice.

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Aug 29, 2017

You should have actually started this as a child...what's the initials of the primary school you attended?

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Jan 24, 2018
Tedypendah:

primary school

Now I have a throbbing erection, damn it!

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Aug 29, 2017

Hey man, I have to present in my class a lot as well and I developed into it really well. Here are my tips:

1) Don't stand still. I noticed I used to get shaky when I present staying still. Move your hands around, walk side to side (if you can).

2) Keep eyeing out different people. Don't stare at board or your paper, have it in the back of your head and summarize. You come off as more genuine.

3) If you stutter a bit just cough it off and say "excuse me." Doing this makes it less akward and such.

4) Confidence. Ah, this is the biggest part. I used to be a fat fuck but I killed it in the gym and got myself together. I'm in killer shape now, keep my face clean and hair always straightened up. I notice too many people who look terrible, not even from looks. They look like they just walk straight to class after waking up. When I go up and present I just know that the 40 kids in front of me are all suckers and I'm better than them. Implement this mentality, I swear you'll do better.

5) Practice out loud, it works. Get your thoughts gathered and what not.

6) Have the occasional smile and just be motivated. I get excited before I speak because I know if I do good it will result in a good grade.

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Aug 30, 2017

"I just know that the 40 kids in front of me are all suckers and I'm better than them". It's nasty but it works.

Would advise to drop that mentality after the presentation is finished though.

Absolute truths don't exist... celebrated opinions do.

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Aug 30, 2017

That's how you become confident.

Aug 30, 2017

Don't confuse confidence with arrogance.

Absolute truths don't exist... celebrated opinions do.

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Aug 30, 2017

Confidence is having the faith in oneself, not through a belittling mentality towards others.
If it helps you get into the confident mode then feel free to use it, just helping differentiate between confidence and an ego.

Aug 30, 2017

Does it matter what I'm thinking? I never express this towards anyone.

Aug 30, 2017

I think most nervousness when it comes to public speaking is all a result of one's mindset. I find my best speaking is when I have no notes or prompts because then I view it as a conversation with the audience. If you can change your perception from a speech to a conversation that will make a huge difference. The extra confidence always shows.

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Aug 30, 2017

practice and failing, hard. people are good at public speaking because they've been doing it a lot and they got their failures out of the way early and have since learned from them. if you're brand new at public speaking just embrace that you might mess up a few times... heck, even people who've done 100's of public speaking events probably still mess up.

smiling at the beginning, before I speak, helps to calm my nerves. kudos for wanting to throw yourself in public speaking situations more often - I'd say its the right move. you'll be fine

Best Response
Aug 30, 2017

I fear nothing, for all is as the force wills it.

I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me. I am one with the force, and the force is with me.

"A man can convince anyone he's somebody else, but never himself."

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Feb 4, 2018

repeating this at increasingly higher volume while staring at yourself in the mirror is a great way to get in the zone

Aug 30, 2017

I just froze up during a best man speech this past weekend and it was the worst moment of my life. Gave one the week prior and did just fine, I don't know what happened during this last one but I feel your pain. I want to give another public speech asap to see if I can overcome it, because its really in my head right now.

Aug 30, 2017

I dealt with the same problem, and can confidently say I now give extremely strong presentations.

You are right to think that you need to continue giving presentations until you feel comfortable, as you can eventually become a stud at pitching with enough work. Not to mention, virtually any job in finance will require you to do the exact same thing, as you have in the classroom. so you should prioritize this.

Keep in mind, that practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Focus on taking deep breaths, and briefly pausing if you get shortness of breath. A couple seconds won't raise any eyebrows, and a proper dramatic pause can improve listener attention.
Body language is equally as important as voice, so always keep yourself above the table and leaned forward (if sitting), or open (opposed to slouched if standing). I like to keep my hands in a resting steepled position (refers to fingertips all touching). Overall, be mindful of your presentations, and think about what you did well, and can improve on for next time.

One trick I was taught, was to leave yourself a voicemail, the afternoon before a presentation, and listen to it several hours later in the evening. It gives you a chance to listen to your pitch organically, and critically evaluate yourself.

Hope this helps.

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Aug 30, 2017

Record a video of yourself giving a presentation/speech, watch it back (this will be painful) and note the areas where you can improve as you continue to practice and get additional reps over time.

They actually provide this opportunity in business schools for interview prep, and most people consider it eye opening and a big help.

Aug 30, 2017

Speak what you love, love what you speak. No one knows if you're nervous. Just be yourself.

"Loser terrorists" & "bad hombres"

"Typical candidates are those who attended a top-tier academic institution"
-Most job applications

Aug 30, 2017

Common issue. You aren't going to find easy answers online unfortunately because everyone's issue is different.

Here's the only resource you need: https://www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club
No investment, no results. Join and participate and you'll get a well mapped out curriculum to build your basic skills, a way to track your progress, and a peer group that will give you constructive feedback on every single speech you give.

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Aug 30, 2017

This!

Only two sources I trust, Glenn Beck and singing woodland creatures.

Aug 30, 2017

Take a speech class if you have not already. Practice your presentation before hand. Have a general script and note any particular mistakes you make along the way. Think of ways to cover. Rehearse multiple times starting a few days prior. Study the information you learned over again the. Recognize your going to be nervous.

Only two sources I trust, Glenn Beck and singing woodland creatures.

Aug 30, 2017

You sound a lot like me and last year I did a lot of presentations because I believe that practice in those situations will help the best, but the one thing one of my profs told me is that find a way of presenting that makes you comfortable. Not everyone can present and go off book and make jokes because that is not them. Not everyone can know their info cold and just give it straight up and take questions. Find what makes you comfortable.

If youre anything like me you end up going last at your presentations and end up watching a few good ones and then you question if your style is the best and try to copy them. Find your style and go with it don't vary because if your information is good and your confident and comfortable in your style it will work.

Best of luck

Aug 30, 2017

Practicing in the mirror and pretending my reflection is somebody in the crowd has helped me tremendously. I focus on keeping eye contact throughout the speech, and seeing my body language helps me fix any nervous ticks that may be showing. If you practice enough, to the point where all body language flaws are erased and you have the speech down pat, you can carry that confidence into the actual presentation.

I also focus on practicing voice inflections and slowing my speech down. It makes you sound more prepared if you have a variance in your speech patterns and you are not rushing through it. If you can do these things it creates even more self-confidence.

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Aug 30, 2017

Practice???? Practice???????? We talkin bout practice?????????? Forget that, tell your doc to prescribe you Propranolol, profit, repeat, take over the world.

Aug 30, 2017

Bro, I have given tons of presentations, case competitions (in school), done speech & debate, and mock trials in live courtrooms. Talk to everyone all the time. Get really good at speaking off the cuff. Talk to people about industries and things you're not familiar with/have knowledge gaps in. It will round out your recall and fill your transitions. You won't be thinking of what you're gonna say next, it will just fill in. Have talking points that you know how to speak about endlessly instead of a general speech prepared. If you deviate from a step by step- you're out or sync and shit out of luck because everyone will know it. If speaking extemporaneously- nobody will be the wiser.

Also, freestyle rapping helps believe it or not. Don't get any ideas of becoming Eminem, but spitting rhymes to faster and faster beats builds a strong recall and vocabulary. Do this privately or with homies over a few beers so it isn't shameful if you get caught.

Most important thing: Nobody knows what you don't know- go out there and speak with some authority. Have a presentation voice and character that you can "assume" when needed. Shouldn't be much different from normal you.

Aug 30, 2017

Oh and BREATHING

Aug 30, 2017

Agree, with a lot of the above. Depending on your personality, working in a bit of humor at the beginning can help boost your confidence and get the audience on your side.

Secondly, always have an out. Know what you're going to say if the bottom falls out and your mind goes completely dark. Most people in the audience aren't paying attention and they certainly don't have a vested interest in what your saying-- they just don't want your discomfort to start making them uncomfortable. When a comedian loses the audience or bombs on a joke they don't pucker, they turn meta and draw attention to the failure. When you slip on a banana peel, your the butt of the joke, when you tell a story about slipping on a banana peel your the hero of the joke. It's about staying in control regardless of how the presentation or performance is going. When your confidence and composure no longer relies on having to kill every time, that's when you'll truly have confidence.

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Aug 30, 2017

Hey @DiamondsDancing , as someone who has always been told that I'm a talker/presenter and a good one at that, my $0.02, like many others, is that the most important thing is confidence.

You need to be the judge of what makes you confident. Some in this thread have talked about their bodies, others about their perception of their peers being lesser than them. For me, it's really only about knowing that I have given 100% to my speech prep.

If I'm presenting on a technical topic, this means I know my subject matter in and out. If I am making an introductory speech mean to elicit laughs, it means resting assured in my natural abilities to be witty and deliver the wit with a good cadence.

So in my opinion, what it really boils down to is: in your mind are you doing your best. Are you sure? Are you second-guessing that fact?

A guy named Timothy Gallwey wrote a book called "The Inner Game of Tennis", which I think is fantastic. It's short, straightforward, and easy to digest. I highly suggest a read - there are free PDFs out there, 100 pages or so.

But his central thesis is this: people who know how to do [X] really well often sabotage themselves because in the midst of doing [X], they start thinking about how well they're doing [X].

It's a more nuanced point than it seems to be on face. He goes into a decent amount of discussion about psychology and how the brain works from a mechanical standpoint. But to draw a clarifying analogy, contemplate the following: A fish swims perfectly. Do you think it's because the fish is thinking really hard about how to swim, or because it's just doing it intuitively?

I suggest you think about the extent to which your brain is overthinking things. Are you doing something without thinking (flowing, really), or are your thoughts stopping for a map-check at every neuron that fires?

Aside from this, practice makes perfect. @Attack_Chihuahua , who almost always gives good advice, has raised the topic of Toastmasters. I haven't done it myself, but it was created essentially just for people like you. Godspeed!

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Aug 31, 2017

Honestly I dealt with this in high school but ended up overcoming it as high school went on.

I would imagine some of your nervousness in the class setting comes from the fact that people aren't taking you or the class seriously, where as in a business setting, everyone there is dedicated and serious. Honestly, you may not like this advice, but take an entry level acting class at your school if you can spare the hours. This will literally afford you the comfortability to speak in front of anyone, anywhere. If you have a good teacher they really challenge you to push the limits of who you are and what you are comfortable doing. If you think public speaking is hard, try performing an emotional scene, in gibberish in front of a class, thats nerve racking. But once you've gotten comfortable doing things like that, public speaking will be a breeze.

Jan 24, 2018

Just want to thank everyone for all the great replies!!! I ended up signing up for a public speaking class my last semester because I thought it was a great way to get practice. Had my first introduction speech yesterday and it went great.

Knowing and believing in what I was going to say was the major difference in this speech versus the last one I did. I memorized the last one but didn't really know what I was saying. Watched a video of myself and you couldn't tell that I was nervous. Referenced this thread before I spoke and it helped a lot. Thanks again.

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Jan 24, 2018

I always just took 3 shots of whiskey and 2 cups of coffee right before a speech. That'll get you through the short term, there's a lot of great advice in this thread about practice, breathing, moving, etc.

Jan 26, 2018

I used to hate public speaking. I also was very bad at it.

As a result 5 months ago I decided to take a job which is around 90% public speaking.

I am now a very, very good public speaker.

The best thing to do is to practise.

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Jan 27, 2018

Used to be like you, and underwent embarrassing situations in which I got so nervous that I forgot the content I prepared and rambled on random things. Very humiliating to be honest. But then I kept throwing myself into scenarios where I had to speak in front of a crowd.

Bottom line, public speaking is a skill and it can be learned. Don't beat yourself over this incident.

"If you're afraid - don't do it, if you're doing it - don't be afraid!"
-- Genghis Khan

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Feb 4, 2018

If it wasnt said already - Toastmasters. Your abilities will absolutely double with their simple 10 speech program, it's free and an amazing organization.

Global buyer of highly distressed industrial companies.

Feb 4, 2018

Diamond, I can more than relate. I never had issues getting in front of project management, project staff, etc. and giving presentations. However, I was asked to give training to my division on a technical issue I'd had to address in the field.

Long and short, I damned near choked. Thankfully, there was a counterpart of mine who was much smoother. I asked him what his secret was and he told me he'd been going to Toastmaster's for several years. Try seeing if you can find a chapter in your area. Toastmaster's is a society that is specifically devoted to helping professionals learn how to feel comfortable with public speaking.

Practice always helps, but unless you're practicing in front of a group of strangers, it will not be a true simulation of the real deal once you're up there. It does get easier over time, and with some of the tools I learned in Toastmaster's.

Good luck in the future.

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Feb 4, 2018

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