The art of public speaking is often seen as the opposite of art. As opposed to something that provokes awe and excitement, it provokes fear and anxiety in classrooms and office spaces worldwide. Nevertheless, there is a way to rise above the fear of public speaking. The majority of fear in public speaking is provoked by the idea of this “public”. However, we have to remember that there is a chance that the “public” which we are addressing is not as bad as we think they are. So, before you decide to skip your presentation in exchange for an early lunch (and a failed grade or job opportunity), just remember:
- Nobody cares. This is definitely NOT to say that nobody cares about your presentation. This is to say that nobody cares if you mess up. In terms of class presentations, chances are your classmates have other things to worry about. Their GPAs may need saving. Their meal plan may be defunct. They may have recently discovered that their favorite show was taken off Netflix. Chances are your classmates are trying to get their lives together as well, so they’re not hooked on making a joke out of yours.
- People want you to do well. Just as nobody cares if you mess up, nobody is waiting for you to mess up either. As a thousand-time audience member in classrooms nationwide, I can say from my experience that just as nobody cares if a presenter messes up, nobody wants her to mess up either. Students are aware of a thing called empathy, especially since, as classmates, we’ve put in the hours of scrutiny ourselves. It’s a relief when someone’s presentation goes smoothly, because we’d love for our projects to go in that same direction.
- Know yourself, know your worth. I don’t use Aubrey Graham quotes loosely, but this line is vital to the topic of public speaking, both in the classroom/office and in one’s social life. We all partake in the same jargon, complaining about presentations or interviews because we were inevitably dictated to do them. However, regardless of whether or not engaging in this verbatim was something imposed on us, we choose the words we do for a reason. We choose the topics of our presentations and the parts of our lives we seek to share in interviews, all for a purpose. It is important to remember this purpose, whether you are doing a presentation that is .0005% of your grade or in an interview that will change your life. Don’t think of your words as something your grade or your career depends on. Think of your audience as someone who depends on you to tell them what they need to know. This mindset has helped me as a journalist, as a student, and as a friend.
- Public speaking isn’t always a matter of academics. Speaking up in public is a vital aspect of the different situations we are exposed to as we grow up, from introducing ourselves to new people to objecting to those we agree with the most. Promoting public speaking skills in women is something that should be promoted widely within the office and classroom spaces, with women often being deemed “bossy” instead of being viewed as bosses. Public speaking should also be promoted in social realms that often go silent. Women should be unafraid to speak up in more intimate social settings, such as the bedroom. As we should be allowed to object to sex at any time and with anyone, we should also be empowered to say yes to sex as well.
Public speaking is not something that can be nailed in a month. It takes constant practice and constant reiteration of the reminder that no one, not your professors, not your classmates, not your friends, not your boyfriend/girlfriend, is out to get you. Speaking openly is a skill, and an intriguing one at that. Rather than fear this skill, we should be jumping at the opportunity to improve it!
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