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I had a panic attack while speaking last fall. I am currently working through it. Training and giving presentations in front of groups is part of my job so I really have no alternative but to get past it. The bottom line is this – You have to let this weird feeling pass over you instead of fighting it. When you allow the initial “wave” of this feeling to pass, it passes very quickly. I am slowly seeing success without meds.

I have thought long and hard about what is working for me and I would like to share the following:

1. Don’t beat yourself up, for whatever reason we are facing this challenge. It is ok to be where you are at this moment in time.
2. Read the book titled “In the Spotlight” by Janet Esposito (I think)
3. Join a local Toastmasters group – this is a group of people like you who want to get better at public speaking. The nice thing is that these groups are generally small in size, 5 – 10 people. It is easier to talk in front of small groups.
4. Look for and be open to speak in safe situations with only a few people. As you get through these experiences take a few more risks with a little larger groups.
5. When you do get a chance to speak, make a conscious effort to relax your shoulders right before you speak. This is huge! If your shoulders are tensed up, it’s harder to breathe. The harder it is to breathe, the more stressed we get which can lead to panic. Relaxing my shoulders as I begin to speak is probably the thing that has helped me the most.
6. High heart rate before a speech? - It’s OK if your heart rate is through the roof. Mine is always high right before a speech, it calms down within a minute or two. No one can tell!
7. Be patient, this will take time. I’m talking months here. You will feel good after every small speaking event and about the progress you make over time.
8. For me, this panic thing is an absolute war. Every speech is a battle. Some battles go better than others, but stay with it!

The hard part is putting yourself out there and taking the risk. Expect to be uncomfortable at times. It is worth it in the end! I am not yet where I want to be but I am on the road to success.

I hope this helps!
 

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I liked your suggestions.

A toastmaster for 3+ years, I have attended over 120 meetings and given 35 speeches and filled all other roles. I learned the more stage time you get, the more comfortable you are in front of the audience. Experts say 70% of public speaking is being comfortable in front of an audience and 30% is practice, practice. I noticed that if I am prepared I can be funnny and relaxed. If I am not prepared, I am nervous. Unfortunately, Toastmasters takes lots of energy. Most toastmaster clubs are welcoming and supportive.
 

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1. Don't beat yourself up, for whatever reason we are facing this challenge. It is ok to be where you are at this moment in time.

3. Join a local Toastmasters group - this is a group of people like you who want to get better at public speaking. The nice thing is that these groups are generally small in size, 5 - 10 people. It is easier to talk in front of small groups.
I can't agree more with your points. Especially #3. I suffered my first panic attack while public speaking in 7th grade. This experience set the tone for the next 14 years. I tried to get out of every speech, project or activity that required public speaking. I was forced to take to take a speech class in college so I decided to take it in May-mester which only lasted a month. I dreaded this class and could see my classmates pained look as I started to panic. After taking this class I realized I my fear was not going to improve over night or over a month.

I graduated college and took an administrative job so I would not have to public speak. After my first week of employment, I was told I would be traveling and presenting at their next division meeting. I wanted to find another job but I didn't have the time. I finally realized I needed to address my phobia. I joined a Toastmasters Club and I can honestly say that after several months--and many times behind the lectern things finally started changing. Don't get me wrong--for every step forward I might slip back a little but the weekly or more practice in a safe environment made the difference! I ended up taking a position in outside sales. I have been in sales for the past 12 years.

I am so grateful to have reduced my anxiety-or manage it better. I only wish I had known about Toastmasters earlier! I still practice all of my presentations--Practice and Preparation make all of the difference.
 
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