Although you may have been addressing groups since 1st grade’s show and tell, chances you are or will be among the estimated 75 percent of adults who fear public speaking, according to Jordan Gaines's NBC Health report. Many colleges require public speaking, while instructors often coach younger students through school presentations. Should you avoid the stress of public speaking class? It’s unlikely you’ll escape public speaking by avoiding the course, and taking it can bring benefits throughout life.
Voice Your Ideas
Usually, fear of public speaking doesn’t stop at the stage edge. Knees shake and hearts thump in many chests at the prospect of speaking in diverse group situations. Have you hesitated give your opinion in a meeting? Have you held your ideas back, fearful of being red-faced? If so, expect a lifetime of anxiety unless you tackle the problem. From classrooms to PTA to town hall to clubs, calls to raise your voice abound. Withheld ideas limit discussions, making the best decision less likely. If you don’t speak up, you’ll have to accept others’ decisions.
Success Leads to Speaking
Colleges require public speaking hoping to produce leaders. Whatever your career, you’re probably planning to advance and excel. That usually requires public speaking. The more successful you are, the more calls you’ll have to step up and say a few words. You may be invited to speak at conferences and seminars, participate in panel discussions or represent your company to the community and to your industry, notes Forbes contributor Martin Zwilling.
Do it Yourself?
Some successful public speakers never took a class, of course. Many books offer helpful tips to novice speakers. Public speaking clubs, like Toastmasters, allow you to practice with other learners. They can point out what you did well and how you can improve. You’ll gain much from listening to and observing others. You can begin with short speeches about familiar topics. As you gain confidence, you might create a list of topics and offer to speak to local groups. Practice is important, as you’ll have to face the fear to overcome it.
The Course Advantage
Unless you join a club, practice opportunities may be irregular. Even clubs may meet only monthly – long enough for fear to rise afresh. Reactions from your observers may be vague and of little use. A course gives you concentrated practice and useful critique, particularly from the instructor. You’ll remember and build on your strengths. Because it’s a class, no one expects you to shine at the start. Your instructor may videotape your speech, giving you the chance to see yourself as others do and work on nervous tics that you might have. You’ll come to see nervousness as energy that prods you to a lively delivery while true fear fades away. Furthermore, a public speaking class on your transcript may be attractive to potential employers.
From elementary school students to adults, Gail Radley has been teaching since 1991. The author of 21 books for young people, she has also contributed to "NEA Today" among other publications. Radley earned a master’s degree in English.