In the past week, I’ve experienced an intriguing and bittersweet revelation.

I had two presentations last week: One was an informal and short magazine project presentation in front of about nine people, the other was a 10-minute professional public relations presentation in front of at least 15 strangers who share different majors.

The first presentation — the informal one — went horribly. I trembled and my heart was racing to the point where I thought I may pass out. I was in front of only a few people, most of whom I had met before. They looked fascinated by my project, but I couldn’t help thinking they were more interested in the unique form of embarrassment in which I placed myself.

A day later, I had my second presentation. I had to dress up, have content memorized and act as someone reviewing the public relations standpoints of a big company. I did well, was confident and had an immense amount of pride for what I accomplished in those 10 minutes. I was relieved but confused as to how I was able to accomplish this great feat given the horrible anxiety attack the day before.

The scientific term for what I experienced during my first presentation is called glossophobia, or speech anxiety, which are basically fancier words for fear of public-speaking.

I read on bdbcommunications.com, a site focused on speaking with confidence, that most social phobias, regardless of which type they are, stem from shyness in childhood.

I was perplexed by this fact. I’ve always been outspoken, both in person and online, within my small circle of friends. Though I knew I possessed these gregarious traits, when under the spotlight, my wild, outgoing spirit always seemed to diminish. I never considered that I had grown up as a “shy” kid and was often considered the opposite from most of my teachers. I also have both ADD and ADHD, making me both a hyperactive and unfocused individual.
I consider myself more of an introvert now in my adult life. I post more on social media than I say out loud, and I tend to be a recluse in social situations. I’ve heard that some public-speaking difficulties can also originate from low self-esteem, which could be true for me.

According to bdbcommunications.com, more people have glossophobia than negrophobia (fear of death), and glossophobia still remains the most prevalent phobia. I found that statistic alarming, but I could definitely understand it more, as I had experienced intense anxiety the day before my presentations.

I’ve had glossophobia for awhile, but I sensed something might have changed the day I did well because of how amazing I felt and how comfortably I was able to speak. What I did seem to know was that in my first presentation, I went second-to-last and my anxiety had built up to an astounding boiling point.

My second presentation went better in part to a concept I now know as “power-posing.” While I stood there and measured up my audience, I felt like I could walk, breathe, think and talk normally. I felt assured that I could do a good job, and I had time to gather myself before my professor had arrived.

I credit the idea of “power posing” to Amy Cuddy, a Harvard professor and researcher, who gave a TED Talk called “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” in which she explained a two-minute method that can help improve confidence and public speaking skills. Power posing is a body language pose that makes you “look big and strong.” I felt like as I was standing up there, above all the people in my class I hardly knew, I was invincible.

I encourage those with glossophobia to go first, power pose for two minutes and feel confident about what you are saying because you have something to say.

Email Anne McLean at anne.mclean@cardinalpointsonline.com

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