Pick me! Pick me...NOT!

by Tammy Dennings Maggy, guest blogger

Public speaking used to terrify me. Not just getting up in front of a group of people, but any time attention was focused on me gave me cold sweats. I hated being called on in class to answer questions. It didn’t matter whether or not I knew the answers. As soon as I was called upon, I would freeze and feel like every single eye was on me and I was being judged. If I answered correctly, I was called a show off. If I didn’t know the answer, then I was ridiculed for being wrong. It really wasn’t that way all of the time, but that’s how I felt. I even had teachers pull me aside asking me why I didn’t speak up more in class. They knew by my tests and essays that I knew the material. They just couldn’t understand why I “pretended” not to know it in the classroom.

It wasn’t that I was pretending at all. I was just too frightened to speak. The fear of rejection and failure was paralyzing for me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to shake that feeling. It wasn’t until a very popular teacher took me aside one afternoon and told me his secret. He too was terrified of talking in front of people. I didn’t believe him of course. He looked so at ease in front of the class and seemed to speak comfortably for the entire period. He smiled at my doubtful expression and promised to let me in on his secret. He wrote it on a note card and slid it across the desk to me. I gave him my best “you’ve got to be kidding me” expression after I read it and he just smiled. “Trust me. It works every single time.”

“Just Breathe…”

Two little words was all he wrote, but two of the most powerful words that would get me through any situation. Seriously. Whenever I felt that growing panic zip through my body, the first thing I’d do was start looking for a way out. But if I just took a moment, inhaled deeply, and then let the air out slowly, I would find that those voices telling me to run would quiet down. My heart would stop beating so wildly in my chest, and the feeling returned to my fingers after I’d stopped clenching my fists so tightly. I took a few more breaths, closed my eyes for a beat or two and then opened them once again. What do you think I saw?

I saw people looking to me for guidance, for inspiration, for hope, for a laugh or two. They were not there to judge me at all. They wanted to hear what I had to say. They didn‘t always agree with me, but they were interested in what I had to say just the same. Looking a little harder, I found some people who were relieved it was me center stage instead of them. I could always find my cheering section, smiling up at me, encouraging me to continue. And yes, there were a few who were not paying attention at all. All the better for me. I was able to forget about those few and concentrate on those who were paying attention.

Go ahead. Give it a try the next time you have to speak in front of a group of people. Just breathe for a few moments before you have to begin. Speak your mind and from your heart, and before you know it, your time in the spotlight will be over…for now.

Thanks so much for the insight, Tammy!

Tammy's book, For the Love of Quinn, is available now.

What happens in Vegas refuses to stay there for Quinn, who falls in love with two men: Vegas tycoon Steve and classic bad boy Jake. Both have claims on her heart, but only one shares a connection so strong that nothing can keep them apart.

About Tammy: As far back as I can remember I have had two dreams: become a veterinarian and a world famous author. So far I achieved the first one and have enjoyed a wonderful career as a small animal veterinarian, but something has always been missing. I have never stopped writing; that has never an issue. The problem was getting up the nerve to actually finish one of my novels and submit it to a publisher. What a scary thought to send a stranger something I had poured my heart into. Would they like it? Would they see the characters the way I saw them in my head? Writing For the Love of Quinn was like giving birth to my first child…I had to let my characters go to see if they would take off…and boy have they ever!

You can learn more about Tammy on her website, Facebook, blog, and by following her on Twitter @dochappycamper. 


  1. Thank you so much for having me today, Rebecca!

  2. Great post and great advice. A lot of writers are shy about public speaking. Must be because we spend so much time alone writing.

  3. Great post Tammy. Us shy writers need to stick together! I had a gut twisting moment in the public eye a few years ago. I was getting ready to speak before the county board. One of the office people there, asked me if I was ok (I can only imagine how I looked if she had to ask) She said, take a deep breath and picture all of them one county over. They're nobody over there. It worked. I wasn't anxious anymore after that. Now I picture all people who make me anxious one county over. :)
    ~Rose Anderson

  4. Gale, isn't it funny that we can express ourselves so well with our writing and yet face to face it's so hard to get the words out at times?

    Rose, I like the one county over advice! I think for some groups, I would like to picture them one COUNTRY over! LOL

  5. Tammy, thanks so much for coming on today. :) I really don't like being in front of a crowd, but when I am, I pick 2-3 friendly faces and pretend like I'm just talking to them. It usually works.

  6. Thank you once again for having me, Rebecca! I had fun putting it together. I also pick out the friendly faces in the group once I get up there. The moments right before I have to start talking are the hardest and when I tend to FORGET to breathe. I really have to make myself slow down and take those few breaths and then I can move. LOL

  7. Remembering to breathe is great advice.

    Because I myself don't like being in front of groups, I tend to try and be a friendly face for others. I know I'd appreciate it, if I were in their place.