Public Speaking

They say that the number one fear of North Americans is public speaking (even above death, if you can believe it)!  I guess this deep-seated fear stems from our intense anxiety concerning all things potentially humiliating.

I will admit that I have never been fond of talking in front of groups, especially large ones.  In elementary school, every year we had to do a ‘speech’ on a topic of our choice (I remember a particularly riveting speech I did on the art of rug-hooking).  No matter how versed I was in the topic, or how much I practiced, I was still a bundle of nerves on presentation day.

When I got to high school, I took music and was subjected to fairly regular “playing tests” in front of the class.  This was even more nerve-wracking than the previous speeches (it’s hard to hold on to a bow when your hands are all sweaty), but each time it got a little easier and I gained a bit more confidence.  I’d like to say that this was the end of my public-speaking nightmares but, alas, that was not the case.  I still had a presentation or two in university.

The most surprising thing though, was the frequency with which I found myself “public speaking” once I got into the work world.  I don’t think I truly realized how often I would call upon my presentation skills as a regular part of my work life.  I can’t tell you how may times I had to ‘run’ a meeting or present a business case to a group of co-workers or project leaders.

As much as I hated giving speeches and doing presentations while at school, it provided me with some very important skills that I was able to draw on in the real world.  After all, these are the skills you use every time you present information, provide instruction and even voice your opinion in a group setting.  They are the skills that give you the confidence to speak up and collaborate with others.  Truth is, I could have benefited from even more public speaking experience (even though I would have denied it vehemently at the time).

It’s encouraging to see that my daughter has already been given quite a few public speaking opportunities at school.  At first, this was terrifying for her, but I’ve noticed less and less anxiety, with each presentation.  Last week, she had two oral presentations and reported that she was much more relaxed than in the past.

For the past three summers she has also been enrolled in Theater Camp.  Although she was not one of the lead characters, she had several lines and participated in numerous song and dance routines with the rest of the cast.  Truthfully, I never thought I’d see a day when my daughter signed up for the opportunity to sing, dance and speak in front of a crowd of people, but she has loved it and has really shone!  What a great experience it’s been!

When it comes right down to it, the more practice she gets speaking in front of a crowd, the better prepared she’ll be for life.  If you’re interested in giving your children the skills they need for the real world, you may wish to read my articles on ‘Doing your best, ‘Patience’, ‘Managing anxiety’ and ‘Help your child calm down’.