The fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death. Individuals would literally rather die than speak in front of a group of people. It is one of people’s deepest fears; you are nervous, all eyes are on you and everyone is listening intently to what you are saying.
Before 2006, I would’ve identified as a person with a fear of public speaking. That is, until I took a class that has proven to be the most relevant to real everyday life, “CMNS 185- Presentation Skills for Public Speaking”. The course description reads: “This course focuses on the dynamics of organizing material, overcoming shyness and developing poise as a speaker in a variety of contexts. Attention to research, voice training, nonverbal communication, and strategies for timing presentations are key components of this course. In addition, this course uses video equipment, enabling students to see themselves on camera, as well as to benefit from feedback from others, as they refine their ability to project, to organize their thoughts, and to address audience needs.”(http://www.capilanou.ca/cmns/certificate-professional-stage/Professional-Communications-Certificate-Program-Requirements/) For 15 weeks, my classmates and I would research a topic and make a presentation every week. This created a safe environment because everyone had to present and everyone had to give constructive feedback. We were taught not only how to present but how to listen. Learning how to properly listen to everyone’s presentations put us in the shoes of our audience, which meant I learnt how was the most effective way to get and keep my audiences attention. One of the biggest take-aways from the course was over-coming my shyness on the podium and squashing my fear of presenting. While I know I have much to learn and to practice in regards to presenting, I know that I’ve come a long way from when I first started and that I have improved.
On Thursday February 12th, my class and I presented our front-end analysis and heuristic design critique reports to Dr. Dan and to each other. As Dr. Dan wrote out the presentation order on the board, I chuckled and asked myself “aahhh why do I have to present first?” Due to technical difficulties I wasn’t able to start presenting right when class started. This is a big no-no, one should always come fully prepared to present. That means notes printed and in order, PowerPoint uploaded before hand and checked to ensure in working order, and all necessary materials or props on hand and ready. When I went to start the opening video in my presentation, it didn’t work. Luckily I had loaded up the video on my laptop as a precaution, and was able to play it from there. The rest of my presentation went to my plan, though I should’ve practiced more so I would’ve stuck to the time maximum. While I present now, I don’t actually think of the skills I learned, they’ve become second nature. I stand tall with my shoulders back, I make eye contact with everyone in the audience for just long enough (too long a gaze and it becomes uncomfortable for the audience member), I project my voice so even those at the back of the room can hear, and I annunciate my words so what I’m saying is clearly understood. And then there are all the factors which make an effective PowerPoint, I am still working on getting that down pact.
Once I finished and was in my seat, I sighed in relief. While I don’t get the nerves and sweaty palms associated with presenting, I do get a rush of adrenaline, which quickly wears off when I’m finished. It was my turn to listen to my classmates and provide positive critique and feedback. As a class, we’ve had four semesters of presentations together and it’s wonderful to see their improvements. But while there have been many improvements overall, there are still some nagging factors which are holding some of my classmates presentations back from being truly great and engaging, in my opinion.
I appreciate that Dr. Dan didn’t make the presentation worth grades, and he stressed the importance of practicing presenting. Taking the grade value away greatly decreases stress, while still giving students the chance to present and practice. This was wonderful practice for me and made me realize that my skills have been slipping and I need to reread the textbook I have kept from the course all those years ago.