Beth Granter

Freelance digital consultant for charities

Being afraid of public speaking when you have a lot to say

I’ve just written a blog post about my recent presentation at Measurefest, a tech/marketing conference. Go and read that on my work blog here: Network mapping and measuring relative influence.

This post is about public speaking. I find public speaking terrifying, even when lots of people tell me I’m good at it. A couple of years ago I started having panic attacks in performance situations, like client meetings or presentations. There were a few hundred people at Measurefest, but strangely it wasn’t much more nerve-wracking than speaking in front of two important clients. It’s not about numbers for me.

Now when I have to do these things, I take a beta blocker and that stops my heart racing, stops me feeling faint, and enables me to breathe and speak. Pretty useful for the immediate situation.

I’ve also had public speaking training from Alan Mars which was helpful. What was also great was that my company, Brilliant Noise, paid for this training as part of my personal development.

And I’m having ongoing cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to try to reduce my general anxiety levels. That’s tackling things from a longer term approach.

Also I stopped drinking caffeine Mon-Fri and whenever I need to ‘perform’. That’s helped a hell of a lot!

In a few recent public speaking situations I’ve tried not taking beta blockers, and had a panic attack during one of them, but not in another two situations. So that’s progress. At the public meeting about St James’ St Pride party I spoke in front of about 80 people and my voice shook a lot and I was visibly shaky (I think), but I got through it and got a round of applause for what I said. I’m not going to go cold turkey on the drugs, and I’m trying to stop feeling so guilty for relying on them.

A couple of years ago I spoke out on BBC’s The Big Questions against anti-choice demonstrators, because someone had to. Recently I spoke on ITV about a certain racist demonstration happening in Brighton, because someone had to. And I’ve spoken at various political demonstrations about things like sex education and LGBTQ+ rights in Russia, again, because someone had to, and I had a lot to say.

So, I’m trying to do lots of public speaking, forcing myself to just get on with it – because I am good at it, and I have a lot of important things to say. Another reason is the lack of women speakers at tech conferences. Even though it’s scary, more women need to speak at tech conferences, and if I do that more, maybe more women will be encouraged to do it too. It still terrifies me, but I think if I force myself to do it enough, eventually it will be less terrifying, even if that takes many years.

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