Public Speaking - A word I dreaded.
I have a memory that would be very insignificant to just about every other person I’d meet. Yet, it is still etched in my mind, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I’ll never forget the time I had a bawling session in front of my friends and family for having to read my short story in front of TWELVE people at Barnes and Nobles, a local bookstore near me. It was meant to be a lighthearted, fun event where middle schoolers were recognized for their writing. My mom dressed me up in an adorable, snazzy outfit, and I even got my best friend to read half my story because I couldn’t do it alone.
There was just always something so daunting to me about public speaking, no matter how ‘fun’ the situation was. I was fine for a bit, nervous, but composed. Suddenly, I hear someone call my name. I turn and see my cousin and her family coming in. They wanted to surprise me and cheer me on. I’m guessing my reaction was not what they anticipated. I ran away to another aisle and started sobbing. Everyone was so confused and they didn’t know what to do to comfort me. I don’t blame them, it was pretty embarrassing and I probably drew more attention doing that than my actual presentation.
There’s no doubt that I had butterflies fluttering in my stomach. My turn was slowly approaching, and I thought that people were so brave to be so comfortable on “stage” (which really was just a tiny platform). I always had these insecurities lingering in the back of my mind- all these worst-case scenarios: what if everyone laughed at me? What if I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the story? What if no one liked my story?
To make matters worse, my English teacher also came because she heard I was reading, so she wanted to support me as well. Thank goodness I didn’t cry then, probably because I was already too worried to get even more stressed. How was I the only one not having fun with this? My friend sat with me the entire time, assuring me it was going to pass by super quickly and that it will all be fine. Looking back on it, she probably was so annoyed with me.
My turn came. I was paralyzed for a few moments before my friend took me by the hand and dragged me on the platform. Let me tell you- getting on stage and seeing the entire depth of the crowd just makes things 10 times scarier. There weren’t even many people at all, but it sure felt like it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my parents and family pulling out their phones to record me.
When it came to my part, my voice was shaky, but I carried on. Sure enough, I became more and more confident. Soon, I was feeling every emotion of my story and I was able to express them genuinely. When I finished, the applause was refreshing and a huge wave of relief just washed over me. Later that day, we all laughed about how unnecessarily scared I was. I was really dramatic, but I did learn a lot of valuable tips and lessons that I still hold true to this day:
The audience wants you to succeed. It’s nerve-wracking to go up in front of a crowd, no matter how big or small, but just remember that they want to see a successful performance. I know that as an audience member when someone makes a mistake on stage, it’s not embarrassing or funny- we all make mistakes and the audience will encourage you to carry on.
It’ll get better. Standing there on stage, it was frightening, but I got used to the environment and I was able to be myself up there! Just take a few deep breaths and you’ll get the hang of it. It’s not a big deal. Here’s what I mean: even if you mess up or think you made a fool out of yourself, I bet you almost no one is going to remember that in a few days. You may feel like the whole world is glaring at you at that moment, but it will all be okay.
You’re the expert. Whenever you’re presenting your project or your work, you’re the one who puts in the time and effort into this certain topic. Let’s say you do make a mistake- if you don’t show it, most people wouldn’t even notice. Just be yourself, and let your preparation do the rest. I know with virtual learning, public speaking is a bit different. For me, I still get nervous when I have to unmute and talk, especially since I’m just speaking to a bunch of squares on my screen. It honestly helps so much when I see people engaged and enjoying my presentation, so be an active listener! React when others are talking- they’ll do the same for you. Think about your thoughts when you’re an audience member: you’d want the presenter to succeed, right? Well, they probably think the exact same for you.
It definitely is a challenge, but it’s a skill we all have to face and learn eventually. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be with it. Take chances and don’t be scared to use your voice! We all would love to hear it!
Writer - Jasmine Kwok
Editor - Priyam Kusundal
Graphics - Jhem Picache