How I Overcame My Fear Of Public Speaking Through CHAARG

Ever since I could remember, I have had a hard time with public speaking. It never came naturally or easily for me, + I was always worried about what other people were thinking about me. The first vivid memory I have of public speaking was in 2nd grade, when I had to present in front of the class about a holiday from another country. When I got up in front of the class, my body started shaking uncontrollably. I leaned against the table for support, but ended up knocking over my trifold + the little figurines that I had for my presentation. It felt like the class was laughing forever, + it took everything in me not to start crying at the front of the classroom.

That experience set the tone for the rest of my public speaking + presentation experiences throughout school. I never learned to work through that fear or my physical bodily response to public speaking [shaking body, shaking voice, excessive sweating, all the fun stuff] — I just thought that was how things were going to be for the rest of my life.

When I became the Ambassador for the Purdue CHAARG Chapter, I started to get extremely nervous for our Info Session + speaking in front of a large group of girls. I thought I was going to embarrass myself + not spread the mission of CHAARG on campus due to my apparent inability to speak in public. As our first Info Session crept closer + closer, I become extremely nervous ++ anxious. My team knew that I wasn’t feeling confident about talking in front of so many people, + they did their best to calm me ++ encourage me.

As I was standing in the front of a 400+ person lecture hall about to start the CHAARG pitch, I took a deep breath + just had a moment to myself. I looked out at everyone waiting for the Info Session to start, + thought *wow, these people actually want to be here. They actually want to hear what I have to say.* In that moment it clicked — anyone that wants to be a CHAARG member so open, compassionate, + understanding. I shouldn’t be afraid to talk because what I have to say could lead to one of these people joining an organization that would change their life. I took a deep breath + began our Info Session, + I had the most positive public speaking experience I had ever had. I was shocked that I had the ability to be calm + collected, even while talking in front of a big group. I even asked my team afterwards if I sounded okay [I used to have the tendency to *black out* any speaking experience] + they told me my voice wasn’t shaking at all! I was over the moon excited, + happy that this was the start to a change in mindset around public speaking.

CHAARG members will never judge you or bring you down. Speaking in front of your Chapter is a great way to start to get over the fear of public speaking, because even if you do slip up, they won’t notice or care. They will support you + lift you up, wherever you might be in your journey. I was able to use the CHAARG public speaking mindset then in my class presentations, + even in interview panels while looking for a job. It might sound silly, but when I’m talking in front of a [non-CHAARG ; )] group of people, I pretend they are CHAARG members  — non-judgemental, open to what I am saying, + encouraging. It’s helped me to be able to speak more comfortably + be more confident in myself. A change in mindset can do a lot for you!

I have three tips + tricks that I use when I have to speak in public, + it’s definitely helped my instinct physical reaction:

#1] Hold something in your hands. I’ve had multiple public speaking experiences when my hands don’t know what to do, which I then become fixated on my hands + forget what I’m saying — it helps to hold onto notecards, a pen, a book, anything to keep them so they are not distracting you.

#2] Take deep breaths. Breathing can really help relax you + clear your mind. Take a moment or two to yourself before speaking.

#3] Smile. I know it sounds cheesy, but fake it til ya make it — if you look like you’re having fun + relaxed, you will start to actually become relaxed! Being tense will radiate to all aspects of your body + mind + will prevent you from doing your best.

In order to overcome the fear of public speaking, I would encourage you to shift your mindset around those that you are talking + presenting to. I have to remind myself that I do not judge others while they are talking in front of a group, so why would they judge me? Having confidence while public speaking is difficult, but not impossible. A lot of people genuinely want to hear what you have to share, which is really empowering! At the end of the day, you are not defined by your public speaking skills — work on shifting your mindset around what you are saying + who you are saying it to, + the rest should come naturally!

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