According to The Washington Post, more people are afraid of public speaking than they are of zombies. ZOMBIES, YOU GUYS! Seriously, we’d rather risk having our brains eaten by the undead than talk to a bunch of totally alive people, who will probably not try to make hors d’oeuvres out of our hypothalamus.
It doesn’t really make any sense.
But I totally get it.
I once watched about twenty minutes of a Walking Dead episode and I regretted it for the next 20 hours — which was exactly the amount of time I was unable to sleep for.
But I’d still definitely rank my fear of public speaking way above my fear of brain-munching corpse-people. Especially when that public speaking involves my having to act like a professional and like I might actually know what I’m talking about.
Despite all of that, I found myself applying to do professional presentations at three different conferences this year.
My first presentation was for a Michigan teaching conference. I was scheduled to present at 8 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday. And, not to brag or anything, but I did AWESOME. Mostly because I was too asleep to figure out what was going on. And because exactly three people showed up.
My second presentation was at a conference at my university and I did even better at that one because the only people in attendance were me and my co-presenter.
What can I say? I’m really, really unpopular.
Given my track record for really low turn-out rates, I was expecting a similarly dismal turn-out for my latest presentation — this time at the TESOL conference in Baltimore last week. Sure, it was an international conference with thousands of people in attendance. But I was scheduled to present at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I figured there was no way a bunch of teachers were going to hang around until 4 o’clock to listen to me screech on about teaching. After all, most teachers I know became teachers expressly for the purpose of being able to get out of work before 4 o’clock. I know I did. Besides, it was the first day of the conference. Surely, everyone would be off having first-day-of-the-conference cocktails. Which is TOTALLY A THING.
My first clue that I might not be so unpopular after all was when my co-presenter and I showed up to the room that we’d be presenting in to find a line of people.
And then more people just kept showing up until the room was so full that people started sitting on the floor and standing in the back.
I’ve definitely never felt so popular.
I’ve also never felt so terrified.
But somehow I ended up speaking to all of them and I don’t think I sounded nearly as screechy or nervous or unhinged as I usually sound at those kinds of things.
It helped that I had a co-presenter, who, apparently, has a lot more experience with being popular than I do because she acted like it was no big deal that seventy-some people were staring at us.
It also helped that the audience was really nice and enthusiastic and seemed really into what we were talking about or, at least, they were really good at pretending to be into it.
And, well, it helped that there was the promise of first-day-of-the-conference cocktails for afterwards. Followed by I-just-spoke in-public-and-didn’t-die sangria. Which, again, is TOTALLY A THING.
How do you feel about public speaking? Love it? Deal with it? Dread it more than zombies?