My first public speech ever happened when I was a sixth grader in Seoul, Korea. I ran for the president position in the children’s ministry at Eunseok elementary school. Eight candidates had to give a 10-minute speech in front of 600 children. I don’t remember what exactly I talked about in front of that huge crowd, but I remember talking with my parents about how to begin and end my speech and a couple of central messages I wanted to convey. Then, I created a speech outline.
When I came to the United States in 2002 to study at Illinois State University, the first class I took was an oral communication class. At this time, I had another big obstacle: English. I spoke to a much smaller crowd of about 20 students, but I was the only Asian student in my class and it was my first semester taking classes in English. I remember that I was very nervous when I was giving my first informative speech. However, in the end I should say I enjoyed all three speeches I had to give in the class. For my informative speech about the Korean War, I had to find some books about it because the Internet was not as good a resource then as it is now. I read a couple of books as well as some Internet sources. I organized the information I obtained from the books, including the core information I wanted to convey and the beginning and ending of the speech. Before giving a speech, I was told that I had to practice at a speech lab. I went there and practiced the speech for several times. My note cards for my actual speech did not have lots of information, but I made sure that I had my central message outlined and added some instructions to myself, such as “smile,” “slow down here,” and so on. As Lucas said in his book, The Art of Public Speaking(2011), my nervousness was gone about 30 seconds after I began the speech. After that, it was not really different from the speech experiences I had in Korea.
Back to my first public speech about 20 years ago, I practiced for a week for my presidential speech at my elementary school. I bet I practiced at least 100 times. And you know what? I was elected as a president. Regardless of the language I spoke in any speech, when I had a well-established outline and few rehearsals, my speech was successful. When I did not have those, my speech was always terrible even in my native language. When the speech was successful, the moment I was giving it was sweeter than chocolate. Still afraid of speech? Have an outline and rehearse. Trust me – you will love every moment of your speech.
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