l i l e p h y t e

October 5th, 08:06 | "Appallingly bad public speaker", eh, Bridget?

About a week ago, I visited a university campus as part of Workplace's drive to recruit graduating students. Along with other people, we represented a pretty good cross-section of the different branches of the company, and were each meant to speak for about 5 minutes about what our division does, how it fits in, what our job is, how we got into it, etc.

Now, normally, if someone asked you to spend five minutes telling people younger than yourself about what you do all day, you'd probably just wing it, spout off your spiel and then sit down. Yes?

I, sadly, don't have this ability. I am notorious for getting myself extremely worked up over even the most insignificant "public speaking" events. (One of my fourth-year classes involved me speaking for approximately one hour; I almost blacked out. Ugh.) It's not that I care what they think. While listening to the guy ahead of me ramble through his own presentation, I was looking around the room at the fairly-interested-looking students, knowing I was the only one who'd actually prepared notes and had a plan, as it were, for my talk. I was simultaneously monitoring myself in disbelief as my heart sped up to "racing", my temperature rose, and my hair, I swear, started to stand up a bit on the back of my neck. I could sit there telling myself there was nothing to worry about, but it doesn't achieve anything. My mental block with public speaking translates itself, shortly before I need to get onstage, into a purely physical reaction. During the talk itself, my mind inevitably goes on autopilot, and I mostly end up trying to focus on not fidgeting too much ("no pacing! stay put! you won't fall over!!"). I generally still manage to gesture naturally with my hands, and on this particular occasion, my left foot started twitching in my shoe.

I hate public speaking.

What is surprising about all this, is that I love people. I love talking with them, and stories (told or heard) and generally am a very sociable person. No one ever believes me that I'm a horribly bad public speaker.

More surprising still was that students came up to me after my presentation on that campus solely to tell me that I was a good speaker. That's all. (For the record, they weren't obligated to talk to me or anything.) It makes me wonder if I looked really nervous and they were saying it to make me feel better, or if I really did manage to pull off a good presentation. My dad says that everyone feels the way I do about speaking in public, it's just that some people manage to hide it better than others. Perhaps. Sure doesn't feel hidden when I'm up there though.

I've signed myself up for two more campus visits, one in November, one in January. Apparently my penchant for self-immolation knows no bounds! Actually, when I got all goal-oriented with The Rest Of My Life, one of my goals for the year was to overcome my deathly dread of public speaking. I realize that telling students about what I do, and my relationship with Workplace for a couple minutes isn't exactly the biggest challenge in the world. I figure that I need to start somewhere; it might as well be somewhere friendly.

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