My Personal Experience of Public Speaking

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Personal Essay

Nervously walking into the classroom, I glanced around. Today was just a mundane school day, nothing out of the ordinary. Classmates were milling around and chatting, their faces showing unconcern to today’s agenda. But to me, today’s main event was a very big problem. I was a shy child back then, and the fact that we had to present in front of the class greatly troubled me. I felt I just was not up to the task: I did not know what to do, I was not very sociable, and I disliked being at the center of attention. I trembled at the mention of speaking publicly to an audience. It did not show on my face, but a peek into my mind would have instantly revealed my inner turmoil and dilemma I faced. To put it bluntly, I thought I was totally, utterly, and unavoidably screwed.

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The bell rang for the class to start, and all the students quieted down and sat at their desks. Then came a few moments of bliss, the calm before the storm. But it was only a fleeting glimpse of comfort before the tension settled in like wind-blown fog. Class started, and the teacher revealed the order in which we were to present and, one by one, the students before me began to rise, walk to the front of the class, and start their presentation. As the number of students presenting before me dwindled rapidly, I grew more anxious, my palms dampening, my forehead covered in sweat. Time ticked on sluggishly, like a snail leisurely moving forward at its plodding pace, unhurried. The presentation preceding mine stretched into eternity, as I sat there sweating profusely, worried, becoming more tense, my heart beating ever louder. Panicked thoughts flitted through my mind as evidence of the presentation’s imminent end emerged. My introverted self unconsciously thought of public speaking as throwing myself, defenseless, into a cage with the audience, which had transformed into ravenous, devouring, and threatening animals.

Then silence permeated the air, followed by raucous, loud applause. I paled, realizing that the sound indicated a very big problem – it was now my turn to present. I stiffly stood up, and trudged my way towards the front of the classroom, dreading the moment when I would eventually reach it. Sweat poured off me like waterfalls as I finally reached my destination, the end of a short but nerve-wracking journey, but the beginning of something worse. I stared at the ground, as if staring hard enough would save me from my plight. Then I started my presentation, covered in sweat, worried, not making eye contact. Looking up was not an option, I did not want to see what my vivid imagination claimed was a swarm of beasts, fanged and clawed, sharp teeth lined mouths dripping with saliva, waiting to pounce and stuff their bellies with the nearest sustenance – me. Everything became a haze, my voice became distant and all I could hear was my heartbeat, all I could feel was the sweat trickling down my pale, nervous face. After a long while of being in this state, I finally gathered enough courage, lifted my head and, when I did, glimpsed the audience. I was struck with sudden realization – that small peek, a simple glance at the edge of my vision, exposed reality and rapidly dispersed my previous prejudiced perspective of the audience. The audience was not a horde of hungry creatures, but were humans, classmates, students, attentive listeners. The audience was not dangerous; I was no longer afraid of them.

It may not seem like it, but a surprising proportion of individuals, who are good at presentations and speeches, were introverts as a child. Through repeated exposure to public speaking, they developed social skills that they lacked. But they had to start at the beginning, the first step into the world of public speaking. They had to be nudged in the right direction, to have the courage to step onto the stage. Once you command your fears, they become nothing more than a wisp of your past, something to fondly reminisce about, but never to dwell upon. By overcoming their dread towards public social interactions, introverted people were able to acquire mastery of speaking to others and socializing, something introverts avoid. Mustering the bravery to surpass one’s fears is a challenge, a trial. But triumphing over test rewards you with accomplishment, and the opening of a gateway of freedom, of choices and extra options, of not having to always cower from that one thing. Introverts can be given the ability to socialize, to express their ideas and creativity to others, to communicate effectively. What was previously terror can be defeated, overcome, beaten, to achieve a better, happier, life.

Eventually reaching the end of my presentation, I spoke the last word, the final closure, and there was silence, a pause, then came an onslaught of thundering applause. I strolled back to my seat, relaxed, calm, and sat, breathing a deep sigh of relief. I was victorious, I had lasted through the whole grueling ordeal, and I had learned my lesson, a shocking epiphany. I was still nervous of public speaking, but I had taken the first step, the beginning of a journey to conquer the fear of social interactions. I sat back leisurely, enjoying the remaining presentations, relieved that it was not me up there, glad at my new-found revelation. That was just the starting point of the reform of my personality.

I gradually changed, no longer the quiet boy who does not speak a lot. I started to chat with my friends more, no longer spending lunchtime reading silently in the school library, but hanging out in the crowds instead. I worry less about presentations and speeches, I can give a talk more fluently than before. I learned more social skills, I spoke more, became more outgoing. I participated in more social events, in activities that fostered and encouraged leadership and social ability. I still become nervous over public speaking; the anxiety is not completely destroyed, but

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