How do you feel about speaking publicly?

Holy cow! My presentation day is in 3 days! Is the workshop ready? Is my process agenda organized? Do I know my stuff? Have I anticipated audience questions? Will I know the answers to the questions? Will I speak clearly and confidently, or stutter and sputter? Oh yah! What the hell am I gonna wear? Should I go shopping for new shoes?

Well, when your workshop day, or presentation day arrives, some of the above questions are more critical than others. What to wear for example, is an ESSENTIAL question don’t you think? Those who know me well are laughing hysterically over this. Believe it or not though, I do go “diva” on presentation days. What I’m going to wear sets the tone for my mood, confidence, and level of readiness. However, the shoes? That’s ri-donc-u-lous! You all know I don’t care about shoes (sorry).

The phenomenon of speaking publicly fascinates me. People of all ages struggle to feel comfortable speaking in front of an audience. On the other hand there are other people who speak publicly with ease. What’s up with that? The easy answer is, we’re all different and our personality determines our comfort with speaking publicly. Right?

Well, the teacher in me tries to find ways to crack this mysterious code. For kids, gaining the confidence to speak in front of an audience is partly opportunity and partly practice. I see this evolve in my classroom every year. One’s self-esteem level or interpersonal skills does not guarantee success or failure with speaking publicly. I have seen perfectly confident, socially “popular” kids, truly struggle with speaking in front of their peers during presentations. I have also seen more humble, timid kids shine in oral presentations. Particularly if they have chosen the topic, or it is on a topic they are passionate about.

As a teacher, I speak publicly every day. At times, the joke in the staff room is we may have done more public speaking in an afternoon than “teaching”. The word teaching suggests and requires that learning is taking place at that time. If learning isn’t happenin’ you’re just public speaking. Ha! Ha! Ha!

I’m comfortable with most public speaking situations. My level of nervousness seems to be determined by things like: number of audience members, the topic I’m speaking about, amount of time and effort put into preparation, and who is in the audience. Audience is the clincher!

I present at teacher workshops from time-to-time. A couple of weeks ago I was delivering a workshop to new teachers (on classroom management of all things). Presenting to teachers is kinda like trying to feed crocodiles. If you’re not careful you’re gonna get chomped. Teachers are the worst students! Strangely, in a learning situation, teachers will do the following: talk, disrupt, text, mark tests, write notes to each other, leave the room…hey wait minute…isn’t that what our students do in our own classrooms? Don’t we give our students detentions for that kind of behavior? Gosh!

For me, it is often hardest to speak in front of my peers. I get as close to terrified as it comes when I have to present something to my fellow staff members, at my school. How is it I’m MOST nervous to present to my closest colleagues.? Shouldn’t I be comfy and cozy with them? Presenting to “friends” is risky though, right? I think I find my self thinking, I’ve got a reputation on the line,. Because we all know each other, what I say and how I deliver the message, is more critical than with other audiences. Ah! This idea just looks backwards as I see the letters connect across my screen.

Wow! The symptoms of nervousness are annoying too, eh? Dry mouth is my enemy! If I’m a bit rattled, I end up feeling as though I’m chewing on Kleenex and washing it down with a glass of dry Merlot (even though I hate wine). What are some of the other symptoms? Sweating, trembling, racing heartbeat, etc. Hmm, I don’t see any symptoms of nervousness that I’d like to sit and experience. I wonder what your response to nervousness is.

Public speaking is just one of those human acts that gets the better of us at times. It’s a shame really. I feel bad for my students who dread speaking during presentations. It really is a horrible feeling if you are phobic of speaking situations. There are so many instances in life when speaking to an audience is necessary. I bet some of society’s greatest thinkers and most creative minds struggle to stand up and share their thoughts with those around them. They end up hiding on the sidelines, with no voice and no outlet. I wonder if we’re losing out on the newest ideas for: great software, design of a car, a new system or policy for a company, or a creative vision for the staging of a scene in a show. As I teach kids, I hope to open the voices of those who’ve felt they’ve had no voice up to that point. Sometimes, they’ve just never had the floor.

School assemblies! I have to admit, I really do enjoy them. Kids love them (if you make them fun). Today I was one member of a three person crew presenting at our Terry Fox Fundraising Kick-Off. The three of us really enjoyed the audience, the students were pumped and engaged! Today, I wasn’t nervous one bit. Being passionate for the topic I’m speaking about, is the number one key to comfort for me. Well, there aren’t too many other people I get MORE passionate about than my hero, Terry Fox. That passion first sparked when I was six years old, and the passion for his courage and perseverance, grows every year. Guess what/who I’ll be blogging about next?

So, how do you feel about speaking publicly? What happens to you when you’re nervous?

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