Question:

I need an advice: My group is going to present a project in school. She's going to choose a student randomly so only one of us will present it. The problem is: I'm afraid to speak in public because my hands shake and I forget some things. I get afraid of what people will think, and I lose control. And I can't distract myself during the presentation like I do with anger! What can I do?


Answer:

What you describe is very common when a person first learns to give a presentation. As hard as it is to do, it is worth learning because you will need to do similar things throughout your life. You will be making presentations to customers or to your boss. You might be asked to teach a class or you might want to argue a position before the city council.

What drives fear more than anything is the unknown. Since you don't often give talks in public, you don't know exactly what to expect, so your imagination fills in the gaps. Unfortunately, what you imagine is rarely like reality. People tend to make things out to be worse than it really is.

One thing that helps is to pick a person near the back of the room to talk to. Pick someone who appears to be paying attention and is sympathetic to your views -- perhaps a fellow team member. By picking someone near the back, you will automatically speak loud enough for most people to hear you.

Another thing that helps is to realize that silence is your friend. Far too many people make the mistake of thinking they need to fill in every moment of time with some sort of sound. So the start using repetitive sounds or words to fill time while they are thinking what to say next. But the audience also needs some silence to think about what you last said.

A final suggestion is not to do anything repetitively, such as jingling coins in your pocket or pacing back and forth. People focus on things that repeat, so it takes their minds off of what you are saying.

While you are nervous about speaking, realize that your fellow students are just as nervous, though some hide it better than others. A class is a good place to practice because you have a sympathetic audience.