The art and fear of public speaking

This afternoon I’m giving a departmental journal club. This is where I find a scientific article and present it by dissecting, analyzing and critiquing the data. I feel pretty good about my talk. I’ve been preparing for it all week so I’m confident that I’ll do a good job.

There was a time where I dreaded speaking in public. In high school and college I hated standing in front of a class or being put on the spot. Things started changing around the second semester of my junior year or college. During that time I was pledging my fraternity while campaigning for the crown of Mr. University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Going through the pledging process gave me a lot of confidence. Also, while campaigning I had to talk at various events around campus. We also had a pageant where I had to swallow my fears. I had to perform a talent as well as answer questions on the different topics. I finished pledging (not by the end of that semester) and I won that crown.

I thought I had overcome my fears but that would shortly be tested. That next semester I had to prepare for coronation. This is a big event on campus where the Miss and Mr. are presented to the campus. The production is huge. I forget our budget but it was large considering we had a horse and carriage, fireworks and am assortment of other things. During one part of the event I had to write a speech and give it to the audience. Speaking in front of a crowd that large was very nerve racking. I did it though.

Last year I gave my thesis defense to a crowd of about 70-80 people and it wasn’t that I was nervous about size of the crowd. I was more so concerned that I would be speaking for over an hour in a subject that I was expected to be an expert. Although I had spent seven years in school I was still worried someone would ask me the simplest question and I would draw a blank. I got through that too.

Now I have a different challenge all together. In October I will be traveling to an international conference where I was selected to give an oral presentation on my research. I’ve presented at international conferences before but they have all been poster presentations. These allow more one on one interactions. I’ll be speaking to an audience from 500-600 people. Although I’ve talked to audiences that size (my coronation) it wasn’t on a subject that I was expected to be an expert (my thesis defense). Also, I only have 15 minutes (with 5 min of questions) to get a whole year of research across.

I’m feeling nervous like I’m in high school and early college again. I hope I can get through this as well.


2 thoughts on “The art and fear of public speaking

  1. Lioness Rising

    I did debate in HS and yet I still have problems with public speaking. Even when I think I have gotten over my fears, when I get up to talk, my voice starts to shake to the point when people think something is wrong with me. I took a PS class in college and that helped at bit, but it was more because I became very comfortable with the people in the class. I tried to speak at another event and I felt relaxed but my voice was shaking. Sometimes my knee starts to shake as well.

    congrats on your opportunity to present! It sounds like fun, hopefully you are going somewhere interesting…


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