Today’s prompt was: Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why?
As a teacher, I’m generally comfortable speaking in front of people, although I have not always been. I use to be extremely shy and shaky, but I overcame my fear after taking a required speech class in college. We had to videotape ourselves giving speeches – it was awful! However, I learned a lot in that class and found myself volunteering in future classes to get up in front of the class to do a presentation. One thing I did was to observe others speaking in front of audiences – such as someone (other than the minister – I mean an “amateur”) talking about something in church, or politicians giving speeches on TV or at live events. I analyzed what made that speaker good or bad. That really helped me, not only in improving my own technique, but also in feeling empathy for the person speaking (especially if they weren’t particularly good at it and weren’t getting the audience’s full attention).
Now, of course, I’m usually in front of people – students – every day, and hope to make the transition to adults. I like to have my students give presentations or read or report about what they’ve read in front of the class and I always have them do Reader’s Theatre. They enjoy this and are motivated to do it, but these public displays are also a good opportunity for them to learn what they need to do to engage their audience when speaking in front of everyone. Children often will use their conversational voices when giving a presentation or reading a play, which doesn’t work in front of an audience because they may not speak clearly, or they speak very fast and often not loud enough to be heard in the back of the room. When this happens, of course, the other students start fidgeting, complain that they “can’t hear”, and eventually tune out. We use these occasions to critique each others’ performances, giving the readers feedback of both the positive things they did and areas for improvement. The criticism has to be constructive, not make the performer feel bad. Because I have learned to project my voice, I help students work on this, as well as to speak slower than seems natural and to use expression while reading to get their listeners interested.
On the other hand, I am EXTREMELY nervous when I have to sing in front of people. I have been selected to be the alto soloist for our choir on various occasions. I think it is because of lack of confidence, especially later if I have to listen to the recording because I don’t like the way my voice sounds, even when my execution is good. No matter how much or how hard I practice, my singing performance is never good enough!