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How can I get over being so scared to speak in and in front of class?

I'm currently a junior in high school and I've always been assigned presentations. However, every time I step in front of the class I just feel my heart sink to the bottom of my chest. I also get very nervous to make eye contact while presenting. One of my fears is to be judged by classmates, I don't want say a wrong answer and everyone to think I'm not smart. To add on to, during class when teachers ask questions I always say my answers very quietly because I'm so afraid of saying the wrong think. I don't know how to over come this. #how-to-overcome-shyness

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Catherine’s Answer

I've had this issue for a long time. Even taking a speech class in college didn't take away the jitters. As indicated in some of the other answers, practice, practice, practice - for weeks! If you know that you have a presentation coming up, start right away. Know what you want to say to get your point across and then start working on your speaking notes. The more I practice, the more I remember. When the day comes to do your presentation, you will be ready. Take a deep breath and know that YOU know the information you want to present. The audience doesn't know if you missed something that you wanted to include. The more often you do the presentation, it will get a little easier. Remember, you know more than the audience. Don't beat yourself up over it. Look at someone in the audience who is smiling or nodding their head in agreement. It's nice to see a friendly face in the audience. If you prefer, you can look out over everyone's head and look at the back wall and give your presentation. That way you won't get nervous looking at someone.
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Aaron’s Answer

At the risk of over simplifying things, the more you practice that better and more confident you will become.

I personally feel exactly as you do. I recently had to do a speech for my wedding and I was very nervous about it. I listened to various presentations, trying to understand how I could improve my public speaking and I found that practice was a common piece of advice/theme.

After writing out my speech in full, I sat in a room by myself and read through it. It felt very strange at first, but after the second or third time, I started to feel more confident. After a few more tries, I turned my speech into a list of bullet points and I was able to use these as a guide, rather than reading it word-for-word.

I practiced every day leading up to the wedding, getting more and more confident each time. A lot of the advice that I saw online suggested I practice my speech in front of friends or colleagues. I chose not to do this, but I didn't find it to have a negative impact on my speech when it came to the big day. The advice given online to practice was definitely a huge help and on the day I felt relaxed and confident.

It can be difficult in school, but I would say confidence is something everyone struggles with. It's easy for me to say from an outsider looking in, but try to focus on yourself and block out what you think others might think. Focus on doing the best you can and if you make mistakes, it doesn't matter. Everyone makes mistakes; this is how we learn and develop.
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Cecile’s Answer

Hi Jazmine

First of all, I'd like to say it is a great sign of that you came here and look for ways to overcome what makes you feel uncomfortable or even anxious, rather than just staying in your comfort zone. This is a sign of ambition, a willingness to grow and learn, that is more and more appreciated in companies like Microsoft, Google...etc. The underlying reason is that skills are still important to acquire, but in places like in the high tech industry, where innovation is a matter of survival, nurturing a culture of people who are focused on being a "learn-it-all", rather than a "know-it-all", is essential. So, my first message to you is : keep trying exactly like you are now, you are in the right track. To emphasize more on this point, I hear you are afraid of "saying the wrong thing" and "not looking smart". This fear is totally normal, especially as the dynamics of the social pressure in a class, and the academic system, will sometimes make you feel like that. What is interesting is that you have the desire, and the motivation to overcome it. So, before moving to the next point (how to overcome your shyness), I suggest that you reinforce your inner motivation on why it is important to do it, by taking a look at Carol Dwek's growth mindset videos. She is one of the most influential searchers in her domain and she is directly influencing how most of the Fortune 500 companies think in terms of recruitment.

As a second point (how to overcome your shyness while speaking publically) , I really want to recommend you to watch a famous 15-minute TED-talk from Amy Cuddy. The first part explains the outcome of some Research studies about power poses, that should directly help you to manage your stress while speaking in public. The last five minutes is a direct illustration of how she applied it in her own life, which is absolutely inspiring. You will find out that you are not alone in your struggle and quest for growing, and that if you keep with the right mindset, you can become exactly like this brilliant speaker :)

At last, to be tactical : find a teacher that you like more than the other ones, ideally in a class that involves more public interactions and presentations. Go talk to him/her during one of the tutorials or after class, and tell him/her that you are really super anxious of speaking in public, but have decided as a special challenge for this year to overcome it. Ask for his/her help by putting you in situation more often, and also mention that you'll probably need some form of support and encouragment. Ask him/her for advices. If it is a good teacher, you should have a total support, and the bonus is that you will probably develop a special relationship with this teacher- Coming back to Carol Dweck's point of view, helping students grow is the most noble task of a teacher (they are not here to just "transfer" some knoweldge to you and to assess you). So don't be afraid to ask : for a good teacher, these kinds of requests are actually the most interesting part of the job !
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Gina’s Answer

I too suffer from this Jazmine, and most people think I am an extravert! I would suggest taking a mindful minute to compose your self before a presentation and think about who you would want to channel or who you want to be like when you present (kinda' like Beyonce's "Sasha Fierce"). I often think of people I admire, like how would President Obama or the Dali Lama speak to these folks or answer this question. I am not suggesting doing an impersonation, but when you think about the composure or the grace that those you admire possess, it helps you to have a vision to work from so that you can find your own voice and confidence when speaking infant of others. I am not saying that the nerves will totally go away, but centering yourself and being gentle with yourself (i.e. Hey, NO one is RIGHT all the time) will take the pressure off and enable to you shake of the jitters to have a voice. Also, practice, practice, practice...if you want to pursue a field that involves public speaking, then you have to conquer the beast by filling the "Nike philosophy" of JUST DO IT...again and again and again. After the consistent exposure, what was once scary will become second nature and easier as time goes on. I hope this helps and best of luck to you. :-)

Gina recommends the following next steps:

One suggestion is to join Toast Masters or a public speaking club that will provide you will opportunities and tips to master the art of public speaking.
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Ryan’s Answer

I'll let you in on a little secret: you don't have to look people in the eye when you're presenting...

Pick a couple spots juuust above everyone's heads in the back of the classroom to the left and right (Ex: The "Perseverance" poster in the corner and... that ugly discolored tile near the door) and speak to THEM instead. Don't worry about the people. Just focus on getting the information out there to the poster and the tile. They're in the back of the room, and don't have ears, so you'll have to be kinda' loud... ;)

Secret #2: You're already doing great! Talking in front of people is SUPER nerve-wracking and you're not alone (up to 75% of the population are affected by it). Odds are, most of your class is also freaking out about it too... and the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll become. Don't be hard on yourself. Just keep at it and you WILL improve.

Once you are comfortable presenting to Mr Perseverance Poster and Senor Ugly Tile, you can then add a few select friends to your eye-contact rotation. These will be your "Champions" for your presentation. Let them know you're nervous about it and you'll be looking to them to help you out. That way if you need some reassurance, you can check in with your Champions to give you a little boost. (Crushes, bullies and clowns are a no-no for eye contact to begin with, for obvious reasons). If it doesn't work out, then it's back to Poster and Tile for a while... You'll get there eventually.

High School is rough. Luckily, unless it's uploaded to YouTube, everyone has short memories and you can reinvent yourself at will. Fake it til you make it. When you have to present, or answer a question, pretend you're not "shy Jazmine", but are some super cool and confident character from a movie, book or show instead... Secret #3: Sometimes, when I am stuck and overwhelmed, I ask myself "What would The Doctor do?", because as he said in Episode 6 of Season 6, “I am and always will be the optimist; The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.” ;)
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