Public Speaking Isn't as Scary as You Think it is

Public speaking -- some people seem to be blessed with the ability to do it effortlessly while the majority of us fear even the thought of it.


In middle school, if a teacher called on me to answer a simple question I would freak out. My face immediately got bright red, my palms began to sweat and my fingers started shaking, I was that scared of public speaking.


Freshman year of high school I went to see my friend’s older brother compete in our school’s Senior Speech Contest and learned that these senior speeches were mandatory for all students in order to graduate. I almost ran to the bathroom to be sick. This speech that I would have to give four years into the future was stressing me out more than anything.


Last year, I gave that dreaded senior speech and I actually enjoyed it. All senior year I couldn’t wait for my English teacher to assign it to us. The first round of speeches took place in our classroom of about thirty people, where each person would speak and then our teacher would critique them in front of the whole class.


I’m not going to lie, though I was excited for the speech, the critiquing scared me, especially after hearing some of the critiques other students were receiving. When it was finally my turn I went in front of the class and gave my speech, nervous to hear what my teacher would have to say about it.


To my surprise, he had nothing to say...absolutely nothing. He simply looked at me and said, “That was really good Samantha, I honestly don’t have anything to critique you on.” My jaw dropped, I said, “Thank you” and went back to my seat.


So how did I do it? How did I go from trembling in fear of speaking in front of others to getting excited to get in front of an audience and talk? Anytime I had to speak in front of my class I would practice for hours alone in my room. I’d start staring at myself in the mirror, then I’d move on to recording myself on my phone and watching it back to see what I did wrong. Knowing that I had practiced until I thought it was perfect definitely gave me a lot more confidence once it was my turn to present.


Receiving good grades on these presentations and getting positive feedback from my teachers and peers also really helped me because it confirmed that I was actually getting better at speaking and the improvement wasn’t just in my head.


The most important thing for me, though, was definitely watching other people speak, especially my classmates. I always thought that I was the only one who struggled with public speaking but once I started really paying attention to other people when they spoke, I saw that I wasn’t alone.


Even the people I saw as super confident were a little nervous when they first got started, but they quickly got over it and kept going. As they continued speaking, their nerves seemed to go away. This showed me that the nerves will be there sometimes when you’re first getting started.


You just have to let the nerves pass and then you can start enjoying the speech or presentation.