So it turns out I started this blog almost three years ago (I just noticed I have previous posts). I just thought that was funny because I don’t even remember writing those.
Anyway, on to the topic indicated by the title: public speaking. It is my arch nemesis.
I was never good at class presentations. Recently, I read a study that ranked public speaking as one of the top 3 fears among Americans, many of whom stated they would rather go to the dentist than speak in public, so apparently I am not alone here (the only difference being that I actually have always enjoyed going to the dentist, so that is another thing that makes me weird, although I had also always been lucky enough to have never had dental problems that would’ve initiated any need to endure trauma).
In fourth grade, I gave my very first presentation on a mobile that I made for . . . I don’t remember because I probably repressed it. All I remember is that I had a vision, and my project was going to be amazing; certainly I was the most creative and capable mind in the room and everyone was going to be blown away after seeing what I could do! However, everything I’d planned went wrong and the thing I ended up bringing to class that day was the most pitiful, horrid-looking excuse for a mobile made out of those wooden sticks you use to stir paint and held together by fishing line. I’d spray-pained the sticks this awful, uneven brown color (whatever this project was, I’m pretty sure it was nature themed, because I can think of no other reason to choose brown), and because I was 8 and sucked at spray painting yet insisted I do everything all by myself despite that my more capable parents were more than willing to help me, the sticks were streaked and riddled with unsightly drip marks. The things hanging from the strings were these terrible drawings I did with marker on standard letter paper. The whole thing was just embarrassing, and by a mistake of my own making, I ended up having to go first. I was asked to pick a number, and the number I chose, 19 (I still remember the freakin’ number I picked, it was that traumatizing) turned out to be my number on the class roster. I tried to protest at first; I was not ready! but my pleas fell on deaf, unsympathetic ears. Mortified, I stood up, babbled and stuttered about what I was supposed to be presenting instead of the disaster I was holding, did not read the essay I wrote about it, and sat down as quickly as possible. I was then called to the teacher’s desk in the back of the class where she loudly graded me with a “C” because I was “nervous and fidgeting and forgot to read my essay.” No bitch, I didn’t forget; I just hate my project and you are the devil! (Yeah, I’m still a little bitter).
I have this nervous tic that causes me to laugh at pretty much everything I say. Sometimes, the tic is not even nervous; I just do it. Incidentally, this either makes me look perpetually cheerful when speaking to people or perpetually nervous. In 5th grade, I could not stop giggling during a presentation, and one particularly annoyed boy in the class finally exclaimed, “God, stop laughing at everything!” accompanied by a wild hand gesticulation for emphasis. I started talking and fast as I could to get through the rest of my speech and then immediately went back to my seat to stare at my desk for the remainder of class. I nearly relived this in 10th grade creative writing, when we had to stand in front of the class with a novel we were reading and talk about it—a sort of show-and-tell, bookworm edition. I walked up there with my copy of Interview with the Vampire I was reading for the second time in a row, said, “The book I’m reading now is Interview with the Vampire,” looked around at all the people staring at me, burst out laughing, said, “Nope,” and went back to my seat to put my head in my hands and stare at my desk.
Oddly enough, I am totally fine with group presentations. I’m not a fan of group projects in general, but when they involve a presentation, there is confidence in numbers, even to the point where I get excited about speaking. I think it’s because eyes are on the group, rather than on me specifically. In my advanced research methods class my senior year of college, we had to present a research project. I volunteered to explain the “results” section. Until statistics, I had never been a math person, but statistics involves words. It is applying logical knowledge to practical situations, and that I understand. I nailed it! I was even asked math-related follow-up questions that I also nailed. Even though our project was nothing groundbreaking or otherwise spectacular, I did not have to eat all the credit for a less-than-stellar research design; after all, I was in a group, which meant I had to compromise. And even though we found no significant results, I’d also nailed the part where we learned how to present the result in order to b.s. our way into making the research sound meaningful. (Remember this when you read research studies: if you are not well versed in statistics, you may be interpreting a bunch of strategically written b.s. as something significant, or worse, matter-of-factly presenting this b.s. to others to try to prove some point)(hey, at least I keep it real).