I’m not talking like picturing the audience in their underwear—frankly, that would make me more nervous, because they’d probably all have rockin’ bods, or definitely at least more rockin’ bods than I do, so the whole time I’d just be going through them one by one, like, “You, sir, appear to have been the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David, and you, over there—definitely an Olsen twin, while you, ma’am, look like you could benefit from some cake, and don’t even get me started on you in the third row—you have the body of Jessica–waist of Rabbit and buttocks of Biel.”
I mean more realistic coping mechanisms for fear of public speaking. Because we can’t all be Abe Lincoln’s—some of us were not destined to be our generation’s great orators. Some of us were meant to really only interact with people when it’s either medically necessary or our Internet goes down and we’re forced to call our Time Warner Cable brethren in Pakistan. So for those of you who, like me, are better off talking to yourselves than other people, here are some tips for conquering your fear of public speaking.
Recall something funny
This may seem insignificant or obvious, but it really does work. If, instead of focusing on the crowd of 100 strangers sitting before you who you can’t see due to the intense stage lighting which is really misleadingly tame from the audience perspective, but who you can feel–judgmental criticisms and all–you’re thinking about the time I went to the gynecologist, and within 30 seconds of me getting into the stirrups, she said, “I was going to caution against waxing because it can irritate your skin, but that’s clearly not a problem for you,” you’ll be too gleeful to let your panic and dread take over.
Or if you’re reminiscing about the story your sister told you about how a homeless man once jacked off to her for like 45 minutes in Central Park, and your response was, “Well that’s not very flattering,” you’ll be bathing in comic relief so much so that you won’t even have time to worry about the scathing criticism your speech is likely to garner. Or if you’re remembering the time you were volunteering with at-risk youth, and one of them, a black teenage girl, said, “Guess my name. I’ll give you a hint—what comes after ‘Queen’?” and you blurted out, “Latifah!” practically before she could finish her sentence, and then she said, “… Elizabeth,” you’ll be too busy laughing/shame-spiraling to realize how miserably you’re failing!
Give yourself a pep talk
Hype yourself up—get energized! You’re a high school QB in Small-Town, Texas, and your public speaking engagement is the big game (“You were BORN for this day—everything in your life up to this moment has been to prepare you for this moment! You are living your destiny—it’s all part of God’s plan, and if there’s one thing we know about faith in God, it’s that it makes people do crazy things like drown their babies to save them from the Devil and institute side-hug only rules pre-marriage, so they end up molesting their plethora of siblings as the only means of sexual exploration available to
them never fails. CLEAR MINDS, FULL STOMACHS, CAN’T LOSE!”)
Or you’re Mel Gibson and public speaking is that one battle in Braveheart. “They may take our dignity, sanity, and ability to sleep the three nights leading up to our Power Point presentation, but they’ll never-take-our-ABILITY TO BOOK IT OUT OF THE BANQUET HALL IMMEDIATELY UPON CONCLUDING AND HIDE IN THE BATHROOM UNTIL THE LATINA CLEANING CREW ROLLS THROUGH AND THAT’S HOW WE KNOW IT’S LATE ENOUGH THAT THE COAST IS CLEAR AND IT’S SAFE TO LEAVE.”
Eat just the right amount of just the right type of food beforehand
Too little, and you’ll feel faint. Too much, and you’ll have to sprint to the bathroom mid-speech, and lord knows we aren’t good at running. And keep it plain—stick with toast, saltines, or maybe some applesauce if you’re feeling confident. Stay away from the stimulants & diuretics—in other words, put down the coffee, hard as it may be to pry yourself away from your lifeblood. Channel your high school best friend and just aim for as bland, boring, and predictable as possible. Now is not the time to take risks—leave that for your sexual health.
Remind yourself of the futility of human existence
It really. doesn’t. matter. Nothing does. You think you have an impact? Well that impact will be erased when the earth inevitably implodes. And, until then, things will keep on going just fine regardless of what you do. You break up a marriage? Um, HELLO–the divorce rate is a little something I like to call 50%–learn to have a little humility, please. You raise a serial killer? Eh, something would’ve eventually killed his victims anyways. You stumble on your words while addressing your graduating class? Sorry I got distracted by NOT GIVING A FUCK. Time heals all wounds, as they say–so whatever it is that you fuck up will eventually fade away into the vast nothingness that is the human condition. You’re welcome, by the way–I just gave you a great closing line for your wedding toast.
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