The fine art of public speaking

Bloganuary: What fear have you conquered?

When I was sixteen, I decided—somewhat out of the blue—that I couldn’t go through life being petrified of public speaking.

Because I was petrified. And I knew that other people would expect me to talk, especially as an adult. Because that’s what adults did. They talked.

So I joined our high school speech team.

Nearly every weekend during the season, I’d hop on a school bus and ride with my teammates to wherever that week’s tournament was. I’d read my piece three times. At the end of the day, I’d dissolve into a puddle.

At first, I was terrible. Really, really terrible. I’d rank the lowest in each of my rounds (a 5 on a scale of 1 – 5). I was okay with that because I wasn’t doing this to win a prize.

But a funny thing started to happen. By the season’s end, I was pulling in solid 3s each round, with a scattering of 4s or even a surprise 2.

The following year? I started at the 3 and 4 ranks and inched my way up. I earned an honorable mention at one of our big tournaments hosted by our rival high school and actually placed third in another.

I didn’t go to the state tournament, but then I didn’t want to. I’d accomplished what I set out to do, and I was no longer the participant everyone felt sorry for in each of my rounds.

And many years later, I wrote a novel based on these experiences.

Make no mistake: I still don’t like public speaking. You won’t see me joining Toastmasters any time soon. But I look back on that sixteen-year-old and marvel at how she could’ve been so prescient … and brave.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Writing

One response to “The fine art of public speaking

  1. There’s nothing like exposure therapy, right? Bravo for wrestling with the demon, coming through it all with a new view of your own possibilities.

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