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  • Writer's pictureAalia Phiri

Presenting and Social Anxiety

The set-up.

In one of our Personal Development class had to do a short 3–4-minute presentation on any of our hobbies or interests. We were given the task and we only had one day to create the presentation and then we were divided into groups of 3. I decided to do my presentation on Abnormal Psychology because it’s a subject I am very passionate about. When class began, we were told that we were going to be filmed so we could watch ourselves back later (how fun…not!) and we also had to give feedback to our fellow peers. It had to be both positive and constructive criticism. Our teacher decided to randomly pick the order and so I sat there waiting for my turn.

Anxiety sucks.

I became apprehensive when the first individual started. I felt uncomfortable, and all I wanted to do was disappear. I'd had a similar experience the day before, but it was worse then because the class was larger. But what surprised me this time was that, in the past, when I had to present or speak in front of a class, I had had some anxiety, but it was something I could easily manage, whereas this time, I was unable to control the anxiousness I felt.

I was still tense when it was my turn to speak. Everyone had done exceptionally well thus far; I was destined for failure. However, since  there were so few people in the class, I felt slightly calmer as I stood in front of them. Even if I did terribly, at least it was only in front of ten people, not thirty, right? So I began my presentation. My voice was trembling and my heart was pounding, but it wasn't nearly as awful as I had anticipated... Until I made an error and stumbled on my words. My mind went blank as I began to stutter. The only thing on my mind was how much I wanted to get this over with. I couldn't care less if people criticized me or didn't grasp what I was saying; all I wanted to do was sit down and fade into the background.

I concluded my presentation, and received feedback from my teacher and classmates. I think I did okay...maybe? To be honest, I didn't pay much attention because I knew I'd made mistakes. Nonetheless, I recall someone complimenting my body language, so that was a positive. Furthermore, I felt a sense of accomplishment since, despite my anxiety being at an all-time high, I had completed the task. Moreover, after class, a classmate remarked she appreciated the topic, which cheered me up. Of course, I received some criticism as well, but I honestly don't recall much of it other than the fact that a chart I created was a little too intricate.

Research and Reflect.

Looking back, I believe that being secluded for so long contributed to my severe anxiety. I spent all of 2020 at home, only engaging with family members and texting friends. As an introvert, I had spent so much time in my comfort zone that I had forgotten what it was like to interact with people outside of it. That, combined with the fact that I already have some type of social anxiety, is most likely what caused me to react the way I did. So, what can I do to improve my public speaking skills in the future?

To begin with, I was able to observe and analyze myself while giving the presentation, and if I didn't know who the girl in the video was, I would say she wasn't terrible. She was a little nervous, but that was fine. That reassures me that I do have good presentation skills; all I need to do now is calm down my anxiety. As I previously stated, abnormal psychology is one of my passions, thus I am well aware that social anxiety can be induced by a variety of reasons, including societal, genetics, environmental, and biological/brain structure. I suggest reading the book Abnormal Psychology by Deborah

C. Beidal, Cynthia M. Bulik and Melinda A. Stanley to gain more insight into social anxiety.

Additionally, I researched some tips and technics to try and boost my confidence and lessen my anxiety. Aside from counseling and medicine, I discovered that picking a topic that interests you can be beneficial. Along with familiarising yourself with the venue (perhaps to look for the nearest exit?) or people (if possible), not scripting what you need to say and instead making a list of key points, preparing for questions, gaining some perspective by asking friends to listen to you first or watching yourself in the mirror, and practicing, practicing, practicing! You could also ask your school or employer for support, or even live in the end and visualize yourself succeeding (Cuncic, 2020).

Furthermore, I feel it's unfortunate that I don't recall much of the criticism I received because I believe criticism is critical to an individual's development. Of course, not all criticisim as there is some that should be dismissed and not taken seriously but there is constructive criticism that can help you better your talents or personality and help you do better in the future.

Lessons & future plans

This event taught me more about myself than anything else. But I also realized that giving a presentation is a formidable task, and I have a newfound respect for people who can present and make it look so effortless, even if they're introverts or suffer from anxiety. Since that day, I've taken steps to reduce my nervousness by practicing some of the things listed above, such as choosing a topic I enjoy, visualizing myself succeeding, and attempting to become familiar with the people. So far, the former appears to be easier than the other two, but I'm still working on it. I'm hoping that in the next 6 to 12 months, I'll be able to visualize myself succeeding and, by practicing, I'll be able to get comfortable with public speaking and presenting.

In addition, I should simplify my charts for future presentations. Despite the fact that some of my peers considered the chart I created to be simple to follow, I should make certain that everyone in the room fully understands the information I'm trying to convey.


Beidal et al. [2010] Abnormal Psychology, 2nd Edition, London, Pearson.

Cuncic, A., 2020. Top Tips for Managing Public Speaking Anxiety. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: <,may%20take%20over%20your%20life.> [Accessed 19 February 2021].

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