Everyone has their own fears.
For me, it is public speaking.
I am rhotacistic, which makes me unable to pronounce the letter “R” (and the word “rhotacism” begins with R — oh, what irony). This condition makes me super self-conscious about the way I speak. Whenever I do a presentation in front of my classmates, I feel like they are piranhas that are ready to bite me.
Hyperbolic? Yes, I know. But that’s the truth.
Lots of my friends have told me how fun public speaking is and so they recommended that I take the public speaking class. As should be expected, I refused to register for the class. I was so tired of hearing the same thing, to the point that I told one of them that I would never take a public speaking class in my life.
But guess what — I broke my own promise. I decided to challenge myself, and so I registered for public speaking earlier this year for the winter quarter.
On the first day of class, I went into the room with no expectations other than just to pass the class. I couldn’t believe that I actually registered for a class that seemed like a nightmare for me, but I told myself, “Well, let’s survive for three months.”
That day, the students had to complete a survey. I don’t remember any of the questions, except one:
“Rate your speech anxiety, from 1, which means you are ready to give TED talk anywhere, anytime; to 5, which means you can pass out just standing in front of the room.”
I wrote 4.5 in my paper.
The instructor asked us to raised their hands as she read the numbers. Nobody raised their hands for number one. Some people raised their hands for number two, most people raised their hands for number three, and the remaining raised their hands for number four, including me.
The instructor smiled and said, “I am a 5.”
To be honest, those words calmed down my speech anxiety a bit.
The first few weeks of public speaking class were tough as I was still unfamiliar with the class, but as time went by, it got better. I started to get used to it, and now I feel more comfortable giving speeches.
In the end, the way to overcome fear is to face it, not to escape from it. I am glad that I decided to face my own nightmare. I still have speech anxiety, but hey, it’s getting better! 🙂
If you have speech anxiety like I do, go and try CMST& 220 (“Public Speaking”). This class was created to help everyone who wants to learn how to deliver a speech, so you will not be alone because your classmates probably struggle with the same issue.
Another option, if your schedule doesn’t allow you to take this class, is the Public Speaking Center (PSC). The student coaches are more than happy to help you manage your speech anxiety and do your best while delivering a speech.
P.S.: They’re not piranhas. These coaches won’t bite you.
Tips to overcome speech anxiety
According to Heather Munsell, a public speaking instructor at SCC, there are five things you can do if you have speech anxiety:
1. Know your topic.
If you understand what you’re talking about, you will feel less nervous. Make sure you are familiar with your topic.
2. Practice, practice, practice.
You can practice in front of a mirror, a friend or a PSC coach. More practice means more confidence.
3. Find something that can make you calm down
Anything works: screaming, power posing or maybe you can try this — one student did 20 jumping jacks before delivering a speech.
4. Go early/on-time to class before a speech
You will have extra time to calm down if you go early — an opportunity you won’t have if you arrive late to class.
5. Positive thinking
Change your mindset about your speech. The theory of self-fulfilling prophecy says that if you think negatively about your speech, you’ll most likely end up failing the task. On the other hand, if you tell yourself that you’ll do great delivering your speech, you’ll succeed.