Sunday, November 2, 2014

Public Speaking is a Thrill!

I had a brain fart. It was terrifying. Thirty minutes before my turn to present, I looked down at my notes, only to realize that I had entirely forgotten what the research was about (*slight exaggeration*). It seemed like I couldn’t make any sense of what the project was or what the conclusions were again. My mind was going blank. It was as if a subconscious part of me was telling me to stop over-thinking, avoid the unnecessary stressing, and calm my thoughts down. After all, I had read the research article multiple times and pored over all the minute details. I had rehearsed the PowerPoint presentation. And I had anticipated potential questions that might have been asked and thought of about insightful ways to answers them. I was certainly ready.

For me personally, the fear right before a big speech or presentation is what drives my enjoyment in the art of public speaking. Despite having many experiences confronting large audiences, I still get the jitters and uncomfortable palpitations, where I can hear and feel my heart trying to jump out of my chest. I am prone to the anxious anticipation that slowly escalates as it gets closer and closer to my turn. And then I make the realization that I’ve reached the point of no return once I’m standing at the podium. But the trick is to be confident; to make it seem to the audience that you are the expert of your topic. Though my hands were shaking, my face and voice exuded confidence. I smiled and made direct eye contact. The nerves slowly disappeared the longer that I kept talking.

(Funny side note: I had to keep reminding myself to use “they” instead of “we” when talking about the project, since I didn’t actually take part in any of the research…)

Surprisingly, when the Q&A began, I was actually able to come up with answers based on the knowledge that I had accrued from preparing for the journal club presentation. It felt great to know that I could provide the answers to the questions that my peers were curious about. Occasionally, I wouldn’t know how to respond, but the best I could do was provide my most reasonable conclusion based on what I did know. It was all in all a great learning experience.

These feelings all aggregate into the reason why I enjoy public speaking so much. It's a way for me to challenge and place myself outside of my comfort zone. And I know that the more I do it, the better I will get.

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