An Introvert in a Public Speaking Seminar

I felt really uneasy as my professor went through the syllabus on the first day of class. Six speeches in one semester: my living nightmare. After the first class, I listened to my fellow classmates talk about their experiences on their high school debate teams, and I immediately felt intimidated. In high school, I hid in my school’s journalism room, dreaded any sort of presentation I had to give and had the reputation of being quiet. 

I know to some, giving a speech in front of fifteen people does not seem daunting. Yet for the first two speeches I gave, anxiety took over no matter what I did. During one speech, I told myself beforehand, “There are only 15 people in this class watching you. Don’t get nervous.” I felt calm as I told myself this statement over and over again until I stood up to speak. The nerves proceeded to take over my body, and I could hear my voice tremble as I spoke.

During one of the first classes, my professor told us she would prefer for us all not to read a written out speech, but rather have notes in front of us for reference. I decided to attempt this method during my first speech, and from my recollection, I did a terrible job. As I spoke, I got confused as to what my point even was and said “um” a bunch of times. I noticed a lot of my classmates who read from their papers gave much better speeches, so I thought I should give in and just do the same. However, one class, my professor commended me for my efforts in trying to give a speech without a written one in front of me. This form of a compliment really encouraged me to keep trying this method of giving a speech, with only bullet point notes in front of me, even if I was terrible at it.

My semester would probably be a lot easier if I did not have to prep speeches and debate points all the time. However, I stuck with the class because I know public speaking is a necessary skill in life. With each speech, I become more comfortable and less intimidated. I will never enjoy public speaking and I will probably never be extremely gifted in it. However, I feel more comfortable speaking in front of people now and I’ve learned how to speak without a written out script in front of me. Overall, I may not be the best in the class, but at least I can walk away with a new skill that I did not have before.