Even with years of stage experience I still find that I experience a certain level of stress before performing a speech. It was one of the main reasons why I joined Toastmasters to begin with. I had little problems handling someone else’s material, and did quite well in Improvisation when working with a group that I could bounce ideas off of, however I had not perfected the art of relying on myself for all the materials involved before.
I had written monologues back in high school and tried my hand as a disc jockey in college, but these didn’t count in the same way to me as standing in a room with adults and entertaining them with my own words. It’s one of the reasons I never pursued stand-up comedy up to this point. I was advised to by a number of people as I’ve been known to come up with quite a few zingers in my time, but it wasn’t a place I felt ready to go.
The interesting thing is, this has nothing to do with speaking in public. One, Fifty, Five Thousand, it doesn’t matter. I am quite comfortable being in front of people. Where my anxieties always lie is in the material. When I am in improv mode, I’m not that worried about making mistakes. I can always change tactic and make up something to make my phrasing sound coherent. However with a prepared speech things are completely different.
Ironically, the more that I prepare my material the more nervous I feel in the hours leading up to my performance. As the writer of said speech I have an artistic pride in doing it exactly right…and my pride can be pretty big sometimes. Like most artists out there, I am my own worst critic and I hate being mad at myself. So, I stress the entire day away, working out the best methods to not allow that to happen.
It has served me well, I guess. My energy and enthusaism tend to be at their peak when I speak. I’ve been told by some I make it look easy. But what my audience doesn’t see if that the entire day leading up to that moment has usually been laid to waste. I can’t concentrate on anything else, I’m withdrawn into my own thoughts half the time and I pace around like a crazed tower guard.
Those of you out there who think they are no good at public speaking because they get nervous…take heart. Even the most experienced of us have our nerves and stresses. It’s all part of the learning experience of being a public speaker or actor or even a comedian. My own education is in going easier on myself, allowing the natural side of delivering my speech to flow better and to take more pleasure in what I do.
If I can’t have fun, why do it at all?