September 29, 2007


I was at a conference this weekend at Concordia, so not very far away and easy to budget for. I though it would be ok, I saw a few people that I know from Ottawa, including both of my MA supervisors. I was presenting a paper I wrote with one of my supervisors this summer, and we're presenting this paper again at another conference at York. So presenting isn't my favourite thing in the world, there are many things I do hate about. Despite what some of you may think of me I do have a very shy side, but even worse I suffer from stage fright. Sometimes I am amply able to overcome my stage fright and I have been able to give even decent presentations in the past. Today this was not the case. I started our presentation, and my heart was pounding when I started but I could speak and get the words out, and it was relatively ok. As I kept talking it go soooo much worse. I turned bright red (as I always do), but I've learned to accept that I'm just someone who turns red and I'm generally ok with that. The main problem was that my voice started quarvering, I mean like rolling into big trembling gasp type sentences and this caused a problem for conveying the idea of our presentation. It was like when you're super upset, and you're about to cry and your voice goes and there's nothing you can do to control it. Now, I wasn't going to cry, but it was so difficult to talk, and I tried to take some breaths, but I didn't want to stop in the middle of my talk and do a big "Inhale. Exhale." That would have been even more embarrassing. I just did what ever I could to get to the end of my section where my co-author was supposed to take over. It was truly awful, I am so embarrassed. I felt bad b/c people in the audience felt bad for me. I took some time to recover while my coauthor was talking b/c I was supposed to take a few sections later on, but he forgot this and presented them himself, then remembered a couple sections later and asked if I wanted to do that part. I answered no b/c by that point we were on a section that was his speciality, although I was hoping to redeem myself after gaining some composure. The discussion was fine, I am much better at addressing questions, I think because it's more like a conversation and less like a performance. But I feel terrible. I apologized to my coauthor and promised this wouldn't happen at our next presentation. I don't even know why I went crazy, it was a friendly audience in a comfortable setting. I just lost it.

When I was a kid (and a young teenager) I used to play violin in the Kiwanis festival. I hate that stupid festival. It was ok when I was playing in an ensemble or orchestra, I could focus on what I was doing and blend in with the other performing with me. But I also had to do solos, where I stood up on the stage with no music and had to remember the whole song and hit at the right notes infront of an audience and an adjudicator who was scoring me. I remember once completely forgetting part of a song and freezing -- terrible terrible memories. I was never meant to preform, it is so not my forte. Unfortunately presentations will forever be a part of my life in this career. I've had a few good presentations, so I'm hoping that kind will become more and more frequent.


Dinah said...

Aww. I'm sorry it didn't go well. But as you said there will be other presentations, and I'm sure the performances will average out.

Jon said...

Have you ever taken a public speaking class? You might find one helpful. At the very least they help you reduce your nervousness.
For myself, I find the more often I'm in front of a group the more comfortable I am with it. If a lot of time passes where I stay behind the scenes, then I'm a little bit unsure of myself in front of a crowd at first.

Dinah said...

whoa! New look!

p.s. I miss you too.

sue said...

jon sounds sensible. you could take a class! you might even get credit for it toward your grad work. i know uoft has one; a friend of mine who took it said it was really helpful.