Public speaking jitters

What’s the deal with people who get the butterflies before a public speech? I am more concerned with the physical aspect of this, not the psychological (even though they might be interrelated).

Why am I perfectly confident in myself, am plenty smart and speak well, and know the material I am about to speak about, and know for a fact that I have the ability to speak well in front of a group, and usually do very well speaking in front of a group, but i get all physically worked up with fast breathing and heart pumping away? I have pretty much learned to deal with these physical distractions. And whenever i speak, even though i have to fight being out of breath, I always do well and am more than confident before the speech. But, it’s as if my body thinks that it’s supposed to react in this way, physically. WHY??? It’s ridiculous! This even happens sometimes when i am about to talk to a very important person or something along those lines. I get all out of breath and my heart rate raises for no logical reason at all. I have a feeling this is more than just your normal, healthy “arousal” (psych. term i remembered from a college elective i took).

Is my brain just wired this way? Is this a genetic thing? Is this the type of thing that if someone has it, it stays for their whole life? Even when i was on a beta blocker medication for my heart (for no reason, my heart is and was fine), my heart still would get worked up. So, the adrenaline was still reaching the receptor on my heart to make it beat faster. Who knows?

I said this also happens sometimes when i talk to an important person, but it’s usually not as bad as if i were in front of a group.

I think it’s more of a fact that you’re too scared to be embarrased. Look at those who can succeed at public speaking, it’s the outgoing people.

Propanolol. Ask your doctor.

Can 10,000 concert musicians be wrong? (fictitious statistic, the rest is genuine).

I had the same problem. My body would just turn on me with all sorts of symptoms associated with fear - fast heart rate, trembling voice, shortness of breath, etc. - and the fact that my body was saying that I was nervous made me feel nervous. In other words these physical symptoms drove my mental state.

I finally got fed up with this and got a prescription for Propranolol, a beta blocker. What this does is subdue those physical reactions and without all that noise going on in my body, I could give my presentation with a good state of mind. The interesting thing about this is that the drug, in and of itself, is not effecting your mental functioning at all.

I notice that I don’t seem to need the Propranolol as much anymore. It’s as though my body got the message that I can do this stuff just fine, and I won’t be asking it to send me running and screaming from the stage.

If you feel that this problem is significant enough, you should go see a doctor. It’s possible this is some type of physical problem (such as Anxiety Disorder). There are many ways to treat these type of conditions, some of which include medication (such as Paxil, Prozac, etc), and some which don’t (such as desensitization therapy). I’m not a doctor, so don’t construe this as medical advice, but it’s probably best that you start with a medical diagnosis to determine if there is indeed a medical problem.

As for me personally, I’ve discovered that when I smoke cigarettes, I’m very prone to panic attacks (don’t ask me, I don’t know why), so I almost never smoke cigarettes anymore.

I used to be a pretty good public speaker until my second year in college, when I had to give a speech on breast cancer. I thought I could wing it, but I couldn’t. My partner talked for 30 minutes, and then it was my turn. I spoke for about two minutes, and then I started getting “all choked up” (wtf?) I started talking, and then realized that I had nuthin’, and then couldn’t say a damn thing - I was sputterin’, stutterin’, and clammed up. From then on, whenever I have had to give a speech, I get the same feeling. I got a doc to prescribe me Xanax to deal with this, and it helped, but I finally overcame it by pretty much memorizing my whole entire speech so I would have no problems regurgitating it on que.

The physical jitters and buuterflies sometimes are enjoyable to me. Makes me feel like I’m doing something exciting, or I’m more “alive,” like it’s a better feeling than my usual boring life.:rolleyes

I mis-spelled it, but bnorton got it right. Propranolol. Not addictive, like xanax. It works when absorbed (30 minutes or so), unlike Paxil, etc.

Seeing a doctor is a good idea. But since this phenomenon has no real negative effect on my social life, i would not go on any drugs. (I try to stay away from drugs at all costs… there is no way for any team of doctors at Merck to know what all else their pill does to a human besides help their symptom, IMO. I mysteriously got a heart palpitation from taking anti-inflammatory meds - Naprosin- a couple years ago, so that’s enough meds for me, unless it’s a life or death situation.)

What i do worry about is whether these almost daily symptoms will take a toll on my body in the long run. I mean, basically what my body feels is stress. And if this momentary feeling happens, on average, 2-3 times a day, couldn’t it damage my heart and brain (and basically every other body tissue) after a while? This is my main concern, and that’s why i am asking what is physically happening in my body at these points?

Well, if this is just anxiety disorder (or whatever its called), you may not have to take drugs. But you should determine that its not something else (like a heart condition, high blood pressure, etc). It depends on your symptoms, and your physician is the only one qualified to tell you if its something else.

Y’all beat me to it, but I’ll reiterate: propranalol.

I make a lot of presentations (2-4/week) and I have ET. Propranalol is my wonder drug. I actually have dual prescriptions, as I take the 120 mg long-acting (time release) for high blood pressure while I take the 40s for crowd control.

And, yeah, knowing I’m gonna be on the spot revs it up a bit.

I do actually enjoy making a good public delivery. But I know about the heebie-jeebies.

Good luck, pal!

I’ll add that despite whatever jinks you experience beforehand, the nervousness dissipates rapidly once you get going.

Well, not so for everyone. Not for me at least. Those jittery feelings would feed on themselves and make things worse as the presentation went on. Everyone’s different, I guess. I was only nervous during the formal part of a presentation. Once it got to the question and answer part where I had to ad lib, I felt fine, or at least better.

The nice thing about Propranolol is that it leaves me nervous, but it’s the kind of nervousness that gives me an edge and keeps me focused. Without Propranolol the nervousness was just destructive.

Fuel - On rereading your OP I see that you have had some experience with beta-blockers and seem to think that they wouldn’t help in your case. That may be so, but keep in mind a couple of things. The dosage varies widely from person to person - something like a half pill to 5 of them, so you need to experiment a bit before putting them to the test. Also remember that beta-blockers don’t work on the mental state per se, but on those physical symptoms that feed the mind’s feelings of anxiety and nervousness. You’ll still feel nervous and the adrenalin will still be pumping, but the physical aspects will be subdued.

I understand that you don’t like the idea of medication, so this may all be moot, but there are others out there who are no doubt having similar problems.

bnorton, just a thought here. You feel like you’ve got more traction once you’ve gotten to the less structured part of your presentation, the Q & A.? My presentations are not highly structured, and I feel the pressure dissipate soon after I glibly take the stage. So perhaps it has something to do with getting past the scripted part, and then talking about what you really know about.

Just a thought.