Thursday, April 22, 2010

When I am nervous my knees shake...conquering my fear of public speaking

I was asked to speak in church this past Sunday. It was an experience that I am always grateful for, but that does not change the fact that public speaking makes me very nervous.

My first experience speaking in front of a crowd that I can remember was waaaaay back in 4th grade. I had a speaking part in a school play (and by speaking part I mean I had one, 4-word line) and I thought my heart was going to jump into my throat. When it came time to recite my line, I was so nervous that only a soft, shaky whisper emerged. The strange thing is that when I got off that stage, I was so enamored by the feeling of being on stage that I wanted more opportunities to conquer my fear. Consequently, I pursued many years of dance, drama and debate in order to improve my comfort level in front of a crowd. 

I am happy to report that I have come a long way since those elementary school days. I am certainly not a professional when it comes to public speaking but I have learned to speak slowly, clearly and disguise the nervous shake in my voice. There is still one aspect that I cannot seem to control - my  knees. When I open my mouth to speak, my knees start trembling.  

So what's a girl to do?

Well, this girl always wears long skirts and prays that she will be standing behind a stand when she speaks.

Despite my shaky knees, I do enjoy the opportunity to improve my skills and abilities. Perhaps one day I shall have these knees conquered.

For those of you who find they have particular trouble with public speaking, I suggest you avoid listening to pieces of advice like "just picture your audience in their underwear" because those things do not work. Who wants that image in their mind anyhow? I will suggest checking out this list of tips for public speaking that was put together by Toastmasters International. It has been a great help for me to review this list when I am preparing for public speaking so that I know the important things to remember.

Believe it or not, public speaking can be a fun, enjoyable experience. Now if only I could communicate that to my nerves that send my knees into convulsions.

Happy Speaking.



Verena said...

Laura, I know how you feel. I just spoke a few weeks ago at Church. My knees were shaking, my voice was shaking a little, my hands were cold... I am always so nervous. My husband gave me this silly advice to picture the audiance in underware. Like you said it´s not helping at all! Even though I spoke for 18 months in front of 50 to 100 people each day, I am still nervous.
I will check out the site you mentioned. Thanks you!!!

Hug´s, Verena

PS: Did you speak at church in dutch? How did it go?

Laura said...


I don't know why so many people think that advice works. Maybe some people do find it useful. The tips of the website that I mention, I think are really good. As for speaking in Dutch; we attend an English speaking congregation so there is not a need for it...yet. We are still working on learning Dutch, so it would be nice to speak in Dutch one day. I remember my first time speaking in German, that was an interesting challenge and my accent improved a lot after that!

Hope all is well!

Yaya' s Home said...

Wow! You sound multi-talented with all your different languages and speaking in front of people and all. How long have you lived in the Netherlands? You should tell about what its like living there, on your blog.

~ Yaya
Yaya's Home