Posted by: raesalley | July 30, 2008

Paradox: public speaking vs. theater techie

Most of my day job coworkers that I see on a day to day basis know that I also do theater. A profession mostly know for dramatics and people who are loud, outgoing characters. Which is half true – actors & directors, for the most part, are the ones people know and associate as “theater people.” Techies or production folk can be out-going as well and insane as their on-stage counterparts, but it isn’t a rule.

I’ve known, for quite some time, that I have an intense fear of public-speaking. If I have to talk in front of a group, I get the shakes, nausea and my mouth goes as dry as the desert. I pace, trying to work out any of the nervous energy I can only to get more frightened because I’m just avoiding the existing problem. People who know me probably find this crazy. I have no problem talking with friends in a large group, speaking in a small meeting and hell, I’ve sung karaoke. But ask me to present, lead a meeting or say more than three sentences and I’m turned into a puddle of goo.

A big part of my job now is talking to people. I’ve been warming up to this for years, as I was the person in the library who did the mini-tours and did the starter reference interview. Now, I can pick up the phone and call a complete stranger without a problem. Talking to my coworkers whom I’ve never met doesn’t concern me when it is one-on-one. I’ve even negotiated small deals, bargained with vendors and called people to the carpet. That’s the easy part.

The hard part was something I didn’t even know was coming until it was there. This plots thing I’ve been working on with a few other people is going live. We started the roll-out to the field (~166) and the contractors (~40) and determined that someone else was doing the first session. And I was doing the rest. The first one, I almost threw up before getting on the phone. My anxiety lessened as only one person was on the call with us and the gal who led the first session gave me the pointers I needed to get through. Afterwards, she gave me a thumbs up/thumbs down run of how I did, which was amazingly helpful. I took notes, and kept those notes handy for the next session. I didn’t have any waves of nausea this time around, but did start a mini-panic session as the attendance crawled over thirty. I could feel my heart in my throat as things didn’t work as perfectly as they should. I was complimented afterwards that I did a bang-up job on it and my tormentor coworker was amazed that I didn’t feel the need to fill the silence when things were slow. I didn’t tell her I couldn’t speak because a small part of my brain was turning into a pile of goo during this incident.

Tomorrow is my first solo gig with the contractors. I do that again on Friday and then two hours later to the remaining staff. At which point, we have to punt. Not everyone who should take the training, has. Our guys are going to get mini sessions at their Regionals…but the rest of the field? Big fat question mark.

Gods, I hope I don’t have to travel. Facing them on the phone is scary enough.



  1. okay, the funny thing? I love speaking in front of groups. Especially extemporaniously (sp?) but I can even handle a real live speech occassionally. But the thought of remembering lines to do it on stage in a performance? That’s what makes me get all goo-ey.

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