As a child I was always very quiet – often my family’s acquaintances questioned if I was able to speak. Even as a teen I was generally silent when in a group setting. After having children, becoming a member of community organizations, and opening my childcare home there were often situations where I needed to speak in group settings.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to speak to students in various classes and members of special interest groups. Usually the topic is ‘Family Childcare’ or ‘Children & Nature’. These events bring a mix of emotions – excitement & hesitation, enthusiasm & anxiety.
Several years ago I took a public speaking course. During the class the instructor would, without warning, call one of us to the front of the class and give us a scenario like ‘You are a recovering drug addict speaking to city officials about the need for an inner-city treatment facility.’ There was no prep time, no notes, and usually no knowledge of the subject.
It was a terrifying. Half the people in the class dropped out.
Each week there were also assignments such as ‘using props’, ‘adding humour’, or ‘a news report’. Everyone had the week to prepare and then to do a five minute presentation the following week. We then received immediate feedback from the instructor and other students about our performance.
The feedback was invaluable. No matter how difficult the week’s topic was we were able to leave the class without questioning our performance. For me that meant no sleepless nights wondering if they understood what I was trying to say. No anxiety over my perceived ‘mistakes’. Instead, I clung to the positive remarks like ‘We can really feel your passion for what you do’. Even the ‘things to work on’ were helpful instead of depressing.
Since taking that class I have learned what helps and what hinders my ability to speak out in group settings. I won’t say I am confident in front of a group but I definitely have some tools that make these situations a little easier.
This post is already getting too long so I will continue it in a second post. In my next post I will write about my most recent experience with public speaking.