I always get nervous before I do a presentation or workshop. But recently, I discovered that the host can say one sentence and put me on the brink of panic. That sentence?
“We cater mostly to a geriatric crowd.”
Yes, this sentence was actually spoken to me before I was about to present. I almost lost my mind. Seriously. I had been scheduled to do my Women and Slasher Film presentation, and this was the crowd I could expect. What? I’m pretty dang sure the host saw the worry on my face because he immediately started trying to make me feel better. He said things like, “It’s going to be fun, don’t worry.”
“You’ll do awesome.”
“The purpose of the humanities is to introduce people to new things, so this will help them stretch their boundaries.”
I tried to let his words make me feel better, but I could tell from the look on his face that he wasn’t exactly convinced either. But at that point, there wasn’t much either of us could do. I was scheduled to go in a few minutes. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t run away. Forty-two people showed up for that presentation.
I tried to keep my shakes to a minimum. I was given a podium to put my bottled water on, and I don’t usually use them because I have a tendency to pace, but I used it this time. I needed something to keep me steady. As I got into my speech, I began to relax. I had to pace back and forth to play the movie clips from the computer, so that helped loosen me up too. No one got up and walked out and no one yelled at me from the audience, so I considered that a win.
At the end, several people came up to me and continued to talk horror movies and told me how much they enjoyed my talk. It made me feel good. Participants also had the option to fill out a survey. Out of those who did, only three said they didn’t enjoy the presentation. And that could have happened at any event, not necessarily one that catered to a geriatric crowd. I considered that a win too.
One of the things I really enjoy about giving presentations and workshops is that I get to meet new and amazing people. This was a really good lesson for me to not judge my audience beforehand. I never know what will appeal to some and not to others. And as far as horror fans go, they are numerous and diverse.
Most days, I’m not even sure why I do presentations and workshops. I have anxiety and social anxiety, so being in front of people is an incredibly scary prospect. Did I say scary? I meant terrifying. For days before the event, I’ll worry about it. My stomach will have both butterflies and knots. I’ll worry about all the things that could possibly go wrong. On the day, as I wait for the time to begin, I’ll feel like I’m going to throw up.
Then, as I start talking, all of that goes away. I become focused on my topic and excited to share my research with others. I ask them questions and expect them to be involved. I crack jokes and answer their questions. It’s not exactly a high that I get from doing workshops because I don’t walk out of there feeling euphoric. I just like to share my research with others, and I enjoy when they learn.
It’s a weird space to be in. Before I go in front of the audience, I always wonder why in the hell I’m doing it. I always tell myself that will be the last time, but then I find myself putting in proposals or sending out brochures. There’s parts I completely enjoy, and then parts that scare the sh*t out of me.
I’ve tried to figure out exactly why I put myself through that, and I haven’t been able to come up with an answer. Normally, I’m not one to back down from a challenge or let my fear dictate my actions—and believe me, I have lots of fears. I’m not trying to prove anything to myself, I just really, really enjoy talking about the subjects I talk about.
Perhaps one day I’ll have an epiphany that helps me understand why I put myself through this emotional roller coaster. When I find out, I’ll let you know.