04 August 2021

Public Speaking: Tips from someone with anxiety

Written by: Hailey Carrillo

Since the beginning of my DFP program, I had one lingering fear at the back of my mind. It was something that was easy to put on the back burner, but something that is creeping up on me increasingly fast. I have to present my project to hundreds of people during my final week. That’s right… hundreds. I have given numerous presentations throughout my years in school. I have taken a whole public speaking class. I even used to give spiels on one of the most popular rides in the country. You would think that I would have gotten the hang of public speaking by now. You would think wrong!

A little backstory about me is that I grew up with crippling social anxiety. I was the girl who passed out before class presentations or even missed school to avoid presenting. These are not my finest moments! I realized very early on that in the field I was pursuing, I would have to learn how to overcome my anxiety. One of the biggest aspects in any scientific field is communication- you must be willing to present your findings at a moment’s notice. I knew that no matter how far I ran from my fears, they would always catch up to me. So, with time and patience for myself, I was able to get better with my social anxiety and find healthy mechanisms to face my fears rather than avoid them. I want to share those with you.

First and foremost, I refuse to tell you to imagine the crowd in their underwear. It did not work for me, and I do not imagine it will work for you. Unfortunately, I will be telling you something much, much cheesier. Practice! I know that you have been told this time and time again, but I want to tell you once more. I’ve always hated practicing speeches. The truth is, however, that the more practice you get the more comfortable you get with your presentation. Even if your mind goes completely blank, your heart starts racing, and you can’t even remember how to say your name properly, your mind will instinctively start reciting the words you have practiced. This can be especially helpful when you feel like you are functioning in autopilot. As simple as it may sound, practice is key!

Some other tips include having presentation notes and wearing comfortable, but professional clothing. You will feel much more prepared if you can quickly refer to an outline and if you are dressed to command the room. Now don’t get me wrong, if you are an anxious speaker these tips will not make you stop being anxious. These tips are more of a way to cope with anxiety rather than cure it. I wish you all the luck in your future presentations!

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Sacramento Regional Office

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