George Jessel was an Academy Award winning actor, and was commonly known by his nickname, the “Toastmaster General of the United States,” and he still understood how intimidating public speaking is. I detest public speaking. I believe myself to be a pretty darn smart person, personable and friendly, but when I stand up to speak in front of people… watch out. The second I learned that I had to take COM 101 here at UWSP, I started dreading it.
It’s slightly funny that I am still so terrified of public speaking. I have no problem singing in front of a crowd, I’m a great writer, I’m fine with meeting new people and training people at work. I have worked in the customer service and hospitality industry since the ripe old age of 9, when I was busing tables and doing dishes at my grandma’s resort, which is *gasp* going on 18 years ago now. All I do the entire day is talk to people, guide them, suggest things for them, help them, and make them feel comfortable and special. Something about the whole “spotlight on me” thing is a little freaky.
The first day of class, when we had to do an impromptu speech, I literally just about peed my pants. Not only did I have to talk in front of all these people who I didn’t know, I had to talk about myself? Not my idea of a fun time. And although I tried to keep my thoughts organized, as soon as I stepped up to that podium, everything fell apart. I didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled and “ummed” my way through it.
That evening after class, as I began reading the text, I realized a few things. Firstly, I probably didn’t do as terrible as I thought I had, and in all likelihood my nervousness was not as transparent as I believed it to be. Confidence is the number one key to being effective at public speaking, at least for me. As chapter 1 in our text states, that confidence will come from experience, excessive preparation, the power of positive thinking and positive visualization, and knowing that most nervousness is not visible and perfection cannot be expected.
Also, implementing Dr. Woo’s SPEAK concept has already proven advantageous. Keeping in mind my Smile, Posture, Eye Contact, Animation/Attitude, and Kinetics helped me deliver an Informational Speech on coffee today that I can honestly say I am very proud of. Now, instead of being nervous and dreading each class period, I’m looking forward to learning more each day, because Dr. Woo and Dane Seckar-Anderson have both shown me that these concepts are going to be essential to my career and future success, and that it’s really not all that difficult.