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Public speaking

  1. Jun 7, 2008 #1
    Greetings, everyone. I have often considered teaching math or science at the community college level or above. The one thing holding me back from pursuing this is my crippling fear of public speaking. I can barely ask a question in class without breaking into a cold sweat and feeling like I want to throw up. A few years ago I was willing to drop a whole letter grade rather than give a presentation. Has anyone else dealt with this problem?
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  3. Jun 7, 2008 #2


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    The only way to get over this is with practice. I had an anxiety attack the night before I had to teach my first class - up all night, couldn't breathe, chest pains, etc. It's been a few years, but I volunteered to give talks and teach classes as often as I could, and I'm nearly over it now. Very mild nervousness at the most. See if you can take a public speaking class at a local college.
  4. Jun 7, 2008 #3


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    Less worry is necessary -- what to do: Are you in high school? Enroll in a speech class and follow instructions and study. You will learn about speaking in front of a group. Are you going to college? Take a speech class or a speech communication class and obtain good instruction and exercises for presenting a discussion to a group. Do you hope to become a teacher and maybe teach at a community college? Even better ---- Learn about lesson planning. You decide (usually) before each class meeting what you will present and how you would present it. From there, you just follow your (usually written) plan. You usually want to be clear about what you want students to be able to do upon completion of a lesson. YOU decide how to achieve this and you discuss the ideas and give examples, and then ask the class and individuals to participate with varying extents of teacher-assistance/guidance. Other associated activities are also necessary, but you determine those as the course you teach progresses.
  5. Jun 7, 2008 #4
    Yes. I had to give a presentation in my intro to engineering class and about 2 hours before class I went running to burn off some energy. I had time to shower before class and the presentation went very well - although I volunteered to go first which I hoped would reduce the increase in anxiety while waiting my turn.

    Two days later I had to give an on-the-spot presentation in my health class. It was ordered alphabetically and I am near the end of the alphabet. It was extremely stressful and I am confused as to how the human body can react so undesirably to such an innocent situation. I had to fight the urge to just get up from the class and leave.

    I felt I had a top performance in my engineering presentation and a near bottom performance in the health class presentation. However, I received praise from both professors and it leads me to believe, it is my own internal hell. Unfortunately, just knowing that is not enough to stave off the anxiety.

    I feel spontaneous presentations or speeches are a particular weakness with me and I try to avoid them at nearly all costs. I, too, would like to overcome this problem.

  6. Jun 7, 2008 #5


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    Have you asked yourself why you are afraid of public speaking? Perhaps it is due to a lack of self-confidence or a fear of not being accepted by your classmates. Generally speaking, if one feels completely comfortable with the material that one is presenting, presenting the material to an audience is equally comfortable.

  7. Jun 7, 2008 #6


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    Fear of public speaking is rarely addressed in academia. And yet it's vitually impossible to pursue a professorship without speaking at department colloquia, conferences, giving lectures, and of course - the dreaded oral exams.

    Personally I find speaking at conferences the most intimidating. You have to stand in front of sometimes hundreds of people - most of whom are experts in your field, some of whom are working on the exact same problem, and a few of whom will challenge you with unexpected questions.

    There are things you can do to help you with your fear. I might recommend taking a course in public speaking, or failing that some kind of dramatic arts. You could also join or start a Toastmasters chapter (although I personally found the only Toastmasters meeting I attended rather annoying). Either way, the more you practice, the easier it gets. Start with small, familiar groups and expand from there.

    If it helps, I consider myself a confident public speaker, but I still get very nervous before giving a talk.
  8. Jun 9, 2008 #7
    I would suggest trying out Toastmasters International. Also, if you can get a floodlight shone directly into your eyes so you can't see anyone, that helps a lot!
  9. Jun 9, 2008 #8


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    Look for a workshop or course on public speaking or teaching. The more you are prepared, the easier it gets. EVERYONE gets a bad case of jitters before their first major public speaking event (usually a department seminar or first class to teach). That improves with practice and growing confidence in your speaking ability and knowledge of the subject you're speaking about.
  10. Jun 9, 2008 #9
    Thanks, guys. I appreciate the advice. I always get so inspired when I come to this website.

    I have recently returned to college after a 10 year absence. I was a journalism major (:yuck:) before. As an electrician in the Navy I learned a little bit about physics and it really sparked my interest. Now that I am pursuing a dual degree in chemistry and physics I am out of my comfort zone. I think that's why I'm hesitant to speak up in class. However, I love these challenging classes and would like to help others feel the same excitement I do when I learn something new.

    I think I would make a good professor and it would be a shame for me to not pursue this just because I have this public speaking fear.

    I'll have to see if they have a Toastmasters chapter in my local area. And I'm going to quit putting off taking a public speaking class and just do it. So, wish me luck. If you see a story in the news about someone spontaneously combusting before they gave a speech, that was me, ha ha!
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