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Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why? ~ Daily Post

Once upon a time, I was terrified to talk to people. I broke into sweats at the thought of having to call and order a pizza. I never made eye contact with folks in a checkout line. I figured no one ever wanted to hear what I said, so I spoke reallyreally fast so to bore people for the shortest amount of time possible.

And then lots of things happened.

The first, and biggest, thing was journalism class in high school. As a sophomore, I covered the yearbook beat, which meant in each of our eight yearly issues, I had a small brief updating the school on how things were running over in yearbook land. The yearbook teacher was very nice, very soft spoken (and a little naive … she let a photo get in the yearbook with a bunch of seniors wearing shirts that said “T.W.A.T Team, and our journo advisor had to explain what a “twat” was). And calling her or, OH MY GOD, walking across the hall to her room was enough to make me feel like I was having a heart attack.

Somewhere in my sophomore year, I got over that by forcing myself through it, trembling though I may have been. Because with each interview, I realized she didn’t want to rip off my head and slam dunk it in the trash can. She wasn’t going to cut me off mid sentence and say, “I do not have time for you, peon, leave me alone.”

By junior year, I was co-writing stories that pissed off the administration and won our high school staff national awards. By senior year, my creative writing teacher told me, “I can’t wait to get you into speech.”

“I’m taking speech?”

“Yes.”

Well alrighty then, speech it is. The class forced me to slow down when I spoke. It showed me that people did care what I was saying, and that fear worked to assure that what I wrote was interesting. Journalism had taught me to write with my audience in mind, and speech class further solidified that. Because let’s face it: Writing can be such a masturbatory thing — learning to write for readers was a big eye-opening lesson.

Oh, I still have the tendency to speed through it when I’m talking to a small group. At my current job, my interview required a presentation, and I apologized to my boss after he hired me if I talked too fast; I can’t help it, I speed up when I’m nervous, but being aware of it is half the battle (or so I tell myself).

Standing up in front of people, if I’m comfortable with the topic, doesn’t phase me. My cousin had me write a poem to read at her wedding back in high school or college, and that was fine. (Actually, a friend of the family, a business man, commended me on the reading. I was a teen, and he told me plenty of adults couldn’t have done that.) I’ve done readings at various weddings, and those don’t phase me either. Neither does quieting a large group of people. (I was a member of a math honors society in high school, and I was one of the few non math nerds of the group. When our high school hosted a regional competition, our advisor asked me to lead bingo. “I don’t know who else would do it,” she told me.) (And yes … we played bingo at a math competition. There was much derivative’ing, solving for X and finding the area of a quadrilateral to be had, but there was also some bingo’ing to be had.)

Which is cool. I think public speaking is one of those universal fears. And I don’t have it.

Now, spiders? That’s another story …

“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.”
~ Dionysius Of Halicarnassus 

“The best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about.”
~ Michael H Mescon

“There are only two types of speakers in the world: One, the nervous and two, the liars.” ~ Mark Twain

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