Facing the crowd

Public speaking is one of the most common fears. This young person discovered that the only way to get up there was to practice with others.

Girl holding a pen
caused overwhelming sensations: heart fluttering, stomach churning, light headedness, dry mouth
Naturally reserved, I was always very nervous when I made a speech and never enjoyed the experience. So, it was after another oral assessment on an ordinary school day in Year 7 when I saw a poster calling for debaters. This was to be the beginning of many debates with myself. Maybe I should get more information, maybe another day, maybe another time. I continued to make excuses for myself even though I knew opportunity does not knock twice (to use a famous proverb).

Ultimately, my English teacher made the decision when she asked me to be on the debating team having read my class essays. I found persuasive writing challenging but also invigorating to constantly reiterate the issue and a lot of relevant evidence in my arguments. Little did I know that this would assist in public speaking.

Impromptu debating was not without its moments of sheer terror and stress - when we worked out our case twenty minutes before speaking time. Just nine words, "And now the third speaker of the affirmative team..." caused overwhelming sensations: heart fluttering, stomach churning, light headedness, dry mouth.

It is easier to be motivated when you are not a lone ranger. Some of the times I got my friend to sit in the audience. Whenever I felt there was a lack of audience rapport, I would think of my speech as just a normal conversation with her. I realised that undoubtedly there would be people in the audience who are also afraid to speak and therefore would not be critical. Debating does have many benefits: it not only complements public speaking skills but also trains you to think on your feet.

One of the reasons I was afraid of speaking was that I knew I wouldn't be able to make everyone laugh. Truth is, everyone has their unique style of speaking - just as two directors can take the same script and produce two different blockbuster hits.

Always remember: successful public speakers are made, not born.
Last reviewed: 07 August, 2015
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