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I had to give a speech today

I’ve done speeches before. Almost always in front of strangers and once or twice in front of very large crowds. I’ve not always been prepared and often improvised entire sections on the spot. I’ve always seemed confidant to people; some seem convinced I’m a natural. I have a secret though, I tend to choke on practice speeches in front of people I know. Often it’s so bad I break character and can’t finish.

I’m taking speech as a required credit for college. I’ve done a self introduction and commemorative speech in class so far. Smooth sailing, they were still strangers. Today I had to do an oral interpretation, which is basically where you take a poem, song, sketch, speech, novel excerpt ect. and read it out. I did a short little bit from a Mark Twain speech that I thought was funny.

I shook. I’ve never shaken before but I was shaking so bad my heel was basically pounding the ground and my paper in front of me could barely be read. I had the damn thing basically memorized but the shaking was so unnerving I had to keep my head down and read through most of it. I couldn’t remember or focus on the type of inflection or delivery I wanted or had practiced. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone because they were all looking away. The damned shaking stopped within seconds of the speech ending.

I guess I should thank Persephone for the small miracle that my voice didn’t shake as well. At least no one tried to tell me that my jello man impersonation was somehow good when I was finished. I didn’t expect it to get to me but I nearly cried before the hour was over. I’m so confused. 300 people with 5 minutes to prepare and they love me, but 20 people in a class and I’m like a twig in a hurricane. Like wtf just happened.

Maybe this isn’t the place to post this, as this is a company game forum. This community is by far the most welcoming one I know and one I’ve spent several years with. I don’t expect replies, I just needed a place to get this off my chest.


Wow, yikes, that’s some serious speech jitters there. I mean, you’re hardly alone in feeling that way! “Public speaking” is apparently a more major anxiety for most people than “actually dying,” leading one wag to note that your average person would apparently prefer to be the one in the casket than the one giving the eulogy.

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Hey, there, @Shax. I’m a stage actor, and I’ve had similar experiences when it comes to dealing with nerves. I know that public speaking and acting can be two completely different beasts (in acting, you can “hide” behind being in character; in public speaking, not so much), but I think I might be able to provide some insight.

I have a similar feeling to this when asked to do performance art-related stuff in front of family in private (i.e. this doesn’t happen to me when they’re in the audience at a paid performance). I don’t choke, per se, but the thought of performing in front of them in private just makes me extra nervous and anxious.

I think the reason I feel this way (and perhaps why you do, as well) is because you feel like they’re encroaching on your domain by letting them watch you practice. In my life, I tend to be this way with a lot of stuff that I am very guarded about. I have a certain amount of pride when it comes to things that I consider to be my domain (the “I don’t need help” bad kind of pride), and that is definitely at the root of why I feel nervous.

I know exactly what you’re talking about here. The way I think of it is like this: Imagine if someone gave a good tug on a big lock of your hair. Your head will get yanked, but it won’t hurt all that much. Now, imagine if they tugged with the same strength, but only on a few strands of hair. Regardless of how much your head moves, it’s going to hurt like the dickens. Same thing with practicing/performing in front of small groups of people. Unlike the whole hair pulling thing, however, I believe that this is something you can get used to over time.

This is actually a very good point of interest: Being memorized and well rehearsed can go a long way in quelling your nerves in any performance situation (i.e. in front of 300 people or 20 people), regardless of whether you can read from the script or not. I’m not sure how much this applies to your particular situation (there are many other factors at play, obviously), but it might have played a small part. I could be wrong, though.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and I’ll do my best to answer!

Fun Fact: Dustin Hoffman was offered by his community college that he attended for one semester to name their remodelled auditorium after him. He declined (he didn’t even go there for acting), and instead requested that there be a bathroom in the backstage area for actors to use, stating that, “when I was in theatre, I always felt like I had to crap a bomb before I went out on stage.” So somewhere in the USA, know that there is a Dustin Hoffman Bathroom backstage at some community college auditorium, specifically made for nervous actors.


I once was informed, at a wedding, that I had to give a speech. I was told this approximately 15 seconds about said speech. Fortunately I’m very good at BSing and not horribly nervous speaking in front of people. I made it about cheese and love

I’m a pastor so I have done my fair share of public speaking. I still get really nervous in new situations. I think the smaller audience is more scary than the larger because you can / have to actually focus on individuals and their reaction. In a larger audience, people are just “a crowd” and they all blur together. In a small audience, especially a class, I cringe every time I see someone blink funny. The desire to impress my peers is palpable.