If You’re Nervous to Speak Publicly, Do It Anyway

I’ve had some variation of “speak at a local meetup” on my goals list for a couple years now, but every time I get near the subject I avoid it—so much so, I didn’t even write it down this year.

I gave into my fear for a long time, but a few weeks ago, the right combination of circumstances came together and I gave my first talk at a local JavaScript meetup. (🎥 Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HHiO4AQc94).

I have a few thoughts about the hesitation, fear, prep, experience, and effects.

I’ll Always Convince Myself Not To

Every time I remotely considered giving a talk, I quickly convinced myself one of a few things:

  • I don’t have anything to say that the community hasn’t heard already
  • Something I say will be “wrong”
  • I’m not really qualified to be doing this

I Am Afraid of People

It’s no secret: I have a people-pleasing problem. I care way too much what everyone thinks of me and whether I appear adequate at <insert-activity-here>. I fear the scrutiny of others in plenty of my life’s endeavors, and it is absolutely stifling. It’s funny, too, because I wrote myself a blog post to combat this exact thinking: Perfectionism: How We Stunt Ourselves Trying to Save Face.

A few questions I’ll ask myself next time:

  • What can really go wrong if something is inaccurate?
  • Is critical feedback really a personal attack as much as a chance to refine my knowledge?
  • Sitting in an audience, do I get annoyed if someone says something I’ve heard before?

I Have Something To Say

The truth is, everyone has something to teach. Whether or not the audience is 5 or 500, my learning and experiences cannot possibly be the same as everyone in the room, so there’s bound to be something unique and interesting to them if they showed up and are willing to listen.

I brought an idea to the Seattle ReactJS Meetup organizers, was granted a time slot, and I spent hours preparing content, slides, and a demo.

And I did the talk in front of 100+ people!

I Am Worthy

I felt proud right after stepping “off the podium.” And then I quickly began second-guessing if it was good enough, succinct enough, clear enough, whether I got my point across—or if I had a point?

But I learned I can only control the action I take to faithfully present a topic the best way I know how. I can’t control how it’s received or what anyone does on the other end.

And more than that: regardless of the reception, or even if the talk was a complete failure, I am still worthy of doing it. I took a step of faith, was given an opportunity, and followed through. That alone is enough.

Surely I hope someone in the audience found the content helpful or was inspired with a new idea of their own; but even if not, this was a win for me.

I hope you have the chance to share an idea with an audience, be it a group of friends at lunch, your team at work, or an auditorium.

We need to hear from you, and you’ll be better for doing it.

In pursuit of a calm, productive life.

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