PUBLIC SPEAKING SENDS ME INTO PAROXYSMS OF FEAR
Beaver Creek, Colorado. It’s a sweltering July day and I’m at an invite-only gathering of polymaths and dignitaries. I’m being introduced to this audience of extraordinary people as the next stimulating speaker. I hate this moment. I can hear the anticipation in the air; I can see their eyes shining with expectation. Soon I’ll have to walk out, alone and vulnerable, to educate, enlighten and entertain.
I feel confident with the education and enlightenment; I know I know my stuff. But the last, I fear, eludes me. I have flashbacks of misjudged, overly academic talks I’ve presented to silent rooms of people, their faces blue with the shine of their digital devices as they try to escape the drone of my words. Maybe that’s a false memory, but it’s the story that I tell myself about what happened. So it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.
Public speaking sends me – a woman who’s spoken in front of audiences since I was small, trained in and competed in ‘oral presentation’ in school, spent my 20s on camera and behind a microphone – into paroxysms of fear. Dread of public speaking came late to me. It was in 2010, after The Virtual Revolution series went out on BBC Two and around the world, that I found myself disassociating on stage, hearing my voice come from someone else’s mouth, my brain catching up with what I was saying several seconds after my body formed the words. It was as if I was being manipulated by an invisible puppeteer.
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