According to About.com, as much as 75% of the population is in some way afraid of public speaking. Some people have nightmares about it, in which they find themselves standing in front of a huge crowd, often in their underwear. There’s even a name for it: glossophobia.
But honestly, I find a fear of public speaking hard to imagine.
I’m a huge theatre buff, which is admittedly unusual for a biology major on a pre-med track. I love speaking in front of people, whether acting in a play at the Schuster Theatre, participating in speech and debate in high school or being a lector at mass at the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel. Except for one incident involving the communications merit badge in Boy Scouts – my dad had to drag me kicking and screaming to speak in front of my troop – I’ve always been ready to give a speech.
So when I scheduled Fundamentals of Speech – the required public speaking class here at Gannon – for this semester, not a single nervous thought filled my mind. In fact, I almost laughed at how easy it was going to be for me.
Imagine my surprise when the teacher issued a cautionary note on the first day of class. The students who are used to or comfortable with public speaking, he said, are usually the ones who have the most trouble at the beginning because they do not put forth as much effort or are unwilling to change poor speaking habits.
I think the same holds true for all classes and subjects: It is often the things in which we are most confident that we are least able to identify – or least willing to change – what we’re doing wrong. It is important to have an open mind no matter what is being taught so that the maximum benefit can be gained.
This also holds true for classes that we might find pointless. Why would a biology major need to take a speech class? Because that biology major may one day present his/her thesis in front of a group of peers. Why would a journalism major need to take a biology class? Because that journalism major might be writing for “National Geographic” in the future.
Whether familiar information or not, your favorite subject or your least, it’s important to do your best in all your classes. Not just to make sure you have good grades, but also to learn as much as you can. It’s all part of a liberal arts curriculum and becoming a well-rounded student.
And that’s nothing to be afraid of.
Not everyone has the same approach to public speaking. Check out what editor-in-chief Tyler Babcock has to say about it in one of his more recent blogs.