Your heart pounds through your chest as your hands get sweaty and butterflies fly throughout your stomach like an exhibit in the zoo. These are feelings that any normal person will have when getting ready to give any type of speech.
Public speaking, like many things you learn, is a skill that people practice and get better at more and more throughout their lives. However, due to the intense fear it causes for many, public speaking is becoming a lost art in society.
North Penn High School public speaking teacher Kevin Manero believes that technology is playing a major role in public speaking disappearing from society. We can get around talking to people for everyday things now by simply texting or using an app.
“I tell my students that it used to be that you had to pick up the phone and call somebody if you wanted to talk to a friend…and now we don’t have to ever talk to anybody. You just send a message. You don’t even have to talk to anybody if you want to order pizza. You just go on the app, you go on GrubHub and just type in what you want,” Manero explained.
This part of life is overtaking how people communicate, and people have started thinking of this as the norm. The lack of face to face conversation in society right now is creating a substantial contribution in making public speaking a non practiced skill for people.
“We’ve gotten so used to that that I think we’ve lost the skills to have to face people face to face. Now we’re having all of these Google meets, and we are talking face to face again. I think these public speaking presentation skills are sort of a lost art,” Manero said.
Another reason public speaking is disappearing from society is the fear that so many people have of it. Manero believes that this is a fear that people are going to have to embrace in order to get over. The fear is so big that people would rather die than face it.
“I think that it’s just a skill that people need to embrace. The problem with public speaking is that it’s among people’s greatest fears,” Manero stated. “Jerry Seinfeld has a great quote that says, ‘People are more afraid of public speaking than death, so if they are at a funeral they would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.’ I think that that’s the biggest obstacle. People are afraid to be in front of an audience, they are afraid to be vulnerable, so they shy away from it.”
Most of that fear stems from the idea of being judged as you speak. It is an obstacle someone has to overcome as they talk. Once you can get over the fear of being judged, then you can better improve your skills.
“I think a lot of people are self conscious about how they are received by other people. It’s sort of a human nature quality, we know that we’re being evaluated and judged by people and we’re nervous about how people see us,” Manero stated.
Just like any other skill in life, the only way a person can improve their skills at something is to actually do it. The more someone practices, the more they will be comfortable doing the activity. This is the same logic that applies to public speaking.
“The best way to overcome the fear of public speaking is to do it. The more you do it, the more you get over that fear of self-consciousness. When you swim, you can’t learn how to swim by sitting on the pool deck and just watching other people do it, you’ve got to get in the water, and once you get in the water, all of a sudden you are more comfortable,” Manero said.
Manero believes that taking a public speaking class at some point in your schooling career is something everyone should consider. The class will put students in a position to face your fear and become vulnerable.
“That’s why I feel like taking a class when the opportunity is there is an easy way to overcome that fear. I think we have to put ourselves in that position as much as we can, and not be afraid to confront our vulnerabilities,” Manero explained.
North Penn and former public speaking student Maddie Nguyen said that her experience public speaking gave her the space to get over that fear without being judged too much. The classmates were always so friendly and these aspects of class helped her face her fear.
“Honestly, my classmates helped me get over my fear of public speaking. I never felt like I was judged, but instead I felt supported. After every one of my speeches they always had something positive to say and that is such a nice thing to hear after doing something that I was terrified of. Having my classmates’ support as well as my new confidence in my voice helped me get over my fear. I didn’t have my fear of being judged hanging over my head anymore and that made me realize that public speaking isn’t as scary as I originally thought,” Nguyen said.
Along with facing your fear, the class provides students with many tips to better improve every aspect of public speaking. From developing charisma to how to come across better to someone, this class provides everyone with an opportunity to learn these things.
“Students learn confidence, they learn presentation skills, they learn ways to overcome their fear, they learn ways to develop new found charisma, and ways to say, hey there are little tangible things that I can do if I am talking to somebody to make myself come across a lot better, things that I maybe never would’ve thought of before, or there are little things I can do to overcome those fears of facing an audience that I never knew before,” Manero said.
Nguyen used this class to help her learn how to speak. Speaking and talking have a difference and it was this class that provided the room for her to develop her skill. From preparing to delivery of the speech, Nguyen was able to develop her skills in all facets of public speaking.
“One of the major benefits I received from public speaking was that I learned how to speak. It sounds silly because I have been speaking for years but it’s different. In public speaking, you learn how to inflect your voice, when to vary your talking speed, and how to make someone remember what you say. This class helped me to control my voice and stop it from shaking whenever I spoke. This class has also taught me work ethic. In this class you really have to practice your speeches because you have to know and own your content. I practiced my speeches at least 3 times a day almost every day leading up to my speech day and that is the most work that I’ve had to do in awhile,” Nguyen stated.
At some point in everyone’s life they will come across a point in which they have to impress someone. Whether it be an employer, coach, or a new friend, everyone will have to know how to present themselves well to someone they don’t know.
“We have 1 chance to present ourselves with confidence, with charisma, and with content, and if we don’t learn how to do that then we may lose that 1 opportunity we get to make a good impression. Whether it be at work, in front of a coach, or in a circle of a group of your peers, there is no life that you would lead where you don’t have to be good at presenting yourself in front of people,” Manero stated.
During classes, students will develop their skills as well as confidence. This is what will turn someone from anxious to prepared and excited to give a speech. Nguyen developed a confidence in her own voice that she did not previously have through the class.
“This class aided me in being confident with my own voice. One of the major reasons I was scared to give speeches was because I was insecure with my voice. I thought people would judge me. We gave so many speeches throughout the semester, and the more I spoke, the more I got used to hearing my voice. I started to not worry as much if people judged my voice and when that happened, I felt at ease. I started to put more personality into my speeches and that is what got me excited. I was more passionate about what I was speaking about and I just couldn’t wait for people to hear it,” Nguyen explained.
This class will provide students with everything they need to be an effective public speaker as well as the confidence and passion to get up and do it. Most importantly, it is one that should be considered for being a required class.