I guess I probably spoke in front of 1,500 or so people when I graduated from high school as class Salutatorian. I’ve always been terrified of public speaking, but I’ve also always been good at it, which means it seems to be often I am expected to do it.
That was an easy speech–I wrote and memorized a poem. I didn’t really have my mind on graduating at the moment, so I wasn’t too worried about my performance. Mentally I was already in college living in a dorm!
The most nerve-wracking public speaking thing I ever had to do was deliver a teaching lesson, in Spanish, as a kind of practice run to wrap up the first part of the course (second part, of course, teaching ESL to migrant farmworkers.) The practice run was videotaped and I had no experience teaching. It was to be 30 minutes long. I got through it, and actually I think ever since I have been less afraid of public speaking. I used to worry for weeks if I had a speech, now I can prepare one the night before.
And god oh god why did I not discover MS PowerPoint sooner? I used to memorize all of my speeches, now I can just take a few word cues every few sentences or so, slap 'em on a slide and deliver visual and verbal awesomeness.
Hilarious memory about a Spanish presentation I was doing on surrealist art in Spain. I was terrified of my professor, she was FROM Spain and kind of hard-core and critical, and I agonized over the presentation for weeks until I delivered it.
I got home that day and my husband asked how it went.
I was like, ‘‘Well, I did pretty well, I think. I mean I didn’t really screw up at all during the presentation… and she sort of smiled and said, ‘‘good job’’ but that’s really it.’’ I frowned. ‘‘I could have done better.’’
My husband with a single question was able to pinpoint the ridiculously high expectations I have for myself. ‘‘What did you expect?’’ he asked. ‘‘Did you think a single tear was going to roll down her cheek as you read your breathless conclusion?’’
Well yes, I realized. That’s exactly what I expected. The image of my grouchy, forceful Spanish teacher from Hell struggling to control her emotions out of absolute awe and reverence for my presentation made us both collapse into hysterical giggles.
We like to use this story anytime I’m getting carried away with anxiety over something.