A few months ago, a professor from my undergraduate days reached out to me about an opportunity to be on a panel in his freshman intro to engineering class. He explained he runs certain classes like tv shows and this would be the “Ellen Designeres Show.” The class would have approximately 130 students, 20 of whom would be female. As he had never had a class with such a large number of females before (engineering is predominantly men), he had never felt the need to have a panel of women. So he invited 4 female alumni to be on this panel. ”Don’t worry,” he assured us, “I’ll give you the questions ahead of time.” About a week before the panel, he sent us the questions. Being the perfectionist I am, I wrote out answers to each question on index cards.
I was feeling a little nervous. I would be on a stage, in a lecture hall, in front of 130 students, answering questions into a microphone. I’ve always had issues with public speaking. Knowing I’d have to present something in front of a class or run a meeting or lead an inventory, my heart would race, my stomach and all of its butterflies would drop, my hands would become sweaty, and I’d start to freak out. Yet for some reason, I didn’t have any of these symptoms. Maybe I was well-prepared and confident. Perhaps I felt passionate about the topics or they were questions I’ve pondered over the past several years. Whatever it was, I was calm, cool, and collected. Without any anxiety, I was able to have fun and even tell the professor that, should he have an all-female panel again, I would love to be part of it.
The one thing I was truly unsure about was what to wear. I knew I should look presentable and professional, but the question remained…what? I posted the question on Facebook and most people responded “pant suit.” If I don’t wear pant suits to work, there was no way I’d wear a pant suit to the panel. I ended up wearing a sheath with a button down under it and pumps. One friend replied, “Courage.” I said to him, “Confidence. When you’re confident, you don’t need courage.”
And I think that’s why I wasn’t nervous.
Tell me, do you have a fear of public speaking? How do you cope with it?