1. The act of delivering speeches in public
2. The art or skill of addressing an audience effectively
TOPIC: Why does public speaking make us nervous? How can we overcome this?
When I looked at the above definition of public speaking, I find my problem with it. I cannot effectively talk to an audience. I freeze up. I stutter. I forget what I’m going to say half the time and end up making up phrases that sound intelligent to fill in the gaps. Essentially, I am ineffective at public speaking.
Why does public speaking make me, as an individual, nervous? I dislike large crowds, with a large crowd ranging from anywhere from ten people to a full auditorium or more. I’m a shy, introverted person and I start to panic when I’m placed under pressure, which public speaking does. Another reason why public speaking makes me nervous is because I’m unused to sharing my opinion and I am afraid of sounding unintelligent. The latter part is something I’ve heard repeated by many of my peers.
We’re afraid of being judged as ‘unintelligent.’ This is relates to a concept my American Institutions professor talked about the first day of class. The words ‘you are smart’ has likely sparked something in our brains that tells us we must be naturally smart, and if something doesn’t come to right away, we must stop it because we have to keep up the appearance of being smart. This desire to appear smart probably inhibits many people from public speaking unless it’s something they know a lot about. No one likes to be criticized, especially if they aren’t used to it. This may be a reason why my generation does not like public speaking. We want to look smart, because all our lives, we’ve been told that is what is going to distinguish us from the rest. It’s not like that, unfortunately. A lot of people are smart. It loops back to the essential question we were asked in class on Wednesday: if you were going to die in ten years, how are people going to remember you? I know I have to get over my fear of public speaking, but it’s not easy to overcome years of mental conditioning, for lack of better words.
One way for me to deal with my nervousness in public speaking is to pick a spot just above an audience member’s head to look at. I look like I’m talking to someone, but I’m not. In a similar vein, I find someone I’m familiar with and pretend like I’m speaking to them. I believe there are other ways to open someone up to public speaking. Taking public speaking classes can be beneficial. It will make someone work towards opening up. Putting someone into these situations can also help, but if not careful, it can induce anxiety in someone. I know that’s happened to me before. Another hugely beneficial tip can be to put yourself into those situations. It can help if the person does public speaking on their own terms. That way, there is little anxiety created by being forced into this position, and the person is training themselves. All of these (minus the class) are something I’ve done in order to become more comfortable with public speaking. It’s taking a while, but I’m becoming more used to it. I’m starting to ignore the little voice in my head that tells me everything I’m saying is stupid. So far, it’s worked! What works for me may not work for everyone else, but having options is always a good thing.