Speech class has felt very much like boot camp. Monday through Thursday from 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with two short breaks for three weeks. My boss has been kind enough to support my efforts and so I’m working an afternoon shift for these three weeks. We are already done with week one, and I have given two speeches: A short introduction and a personal narrative. It went much better than I thought. It felt ok, even sweeping around the class, trying to make eye contact with the whole class, which in the past would have thrown me off and brought me to an immediate standstill. The only thing I observed is that my heart started pounding right before I knew I was up, and then it went back to normal, leaving a few butterflies in my tummy.
With only the night to prepare for my personal narrative, I woke up the following morning at 4 a.m. to rework it, I read it aloud over and over with an online stopwatch, so that I stayed within the 3 to 4 minute allotment. I stayed at the computer for three and a half hours tweaking, re-reading, pretending to look around the classroom. How difficult could this be—I was talking about myself, my solo trip to New Orleans. It was very difficult! What I had written out was what I would submit for a written story, but when I read it aloud, it didn’t sound natural. I stumbled and made modifications based on how it would be as a speech that should sound natural, opposed to a piece of written work, made simply for reading quietly or aloud word for word. Such a different animal for me. A very challenging one.
The day of my presentation, I walked up to the front of the classroom of about 27 students that sat in a U shape. The people in the back seemed so far away. I started off fine, looked up from my paper. When I got to my second point, I had to look down at my paper again. I had highlighted certain spots, so that I wouldn’t have to fumble to find a key word to get me back on track. What I realized is that I was changing certain words and phrasing and left out a few details— how I had originally planned on presenting my story. It felt strange. Why did I do that? What happened? I suppose it was nerves. By my closing point, I started feeling that lost feeling. I paused, I looked down, looked back up and was able to give my conclusion, which was to not let anyone discourage you from doing something you want to do, no matter how big or small; and to not be afraid to do something alone because you might be surprised by what you learn about yourself. I had at least kept my conclusion pretty much on par with what I had originally intended and had written. The important thing is I got through it! It felt amazing to actually complete the speech and not feel too nervous.
When each of the speakers finished, the instructor had our fellow students first give feedback to us and then he would give us his feedback. I was surprised that one person said I looked comfortable up there and that I had good eye contact. Another said she liked my “moral.” One student had a very helpful comment. She said that I could speak up a bit and not be afraid and to yell at us is how she put it. “We’re not mean, just let it out” she said. Interesting. Yes, that would be tricky. To get comfortable enough with the audience to be more expressive and change my tone, as I am when I am comfortable. It was a good start to the week and not as scary as I thought it would be. Already, I have accomplished more than I could have asked for.
My next speech is on Tuesday and I have been busily working away on it. This is the most time consuming class I have ever taken, and of course that has a lot to do with the condensed version. I also think it has to do with my need to feel comfortable enough with what I’ve written down to be able to recover if I lose myself up there. I have spent so much time thinking and rewriting this next speech, and for this one, I’m not even writing it as I approached my other speech, which is to write it out in essay format first. This one, I’m writing and tweaking strictly as an outline. I’ve already changed it up and reordered one point based on reading aloud and realizing that I need to try and inform the best I know how in 4 to 6 minutes with visual aids. I still haven’t decided my visual aid delivery: PowerPoint or poster boards. I may have to do both because the instructor said to have a backup plan if the technology isn’t cooperating that day.
The instructor told us to select a topic we’re passionate about, but since it’s an informative speech, our opinion doesn’t matter and shouldn’t really come into play. This is a great exercise for me in presenting objectively about something I am passionate about, which is astrology. I thought it would be a fun topic and something different. It’s also a challenge because I have to narrow my focus down and at the same time try to make it useful in such a short amount of time. Maybe there’s a lesson there: Don’t choose such a broad topic to begin with.
Lastly, one of the assignments to prepare for this speech, which was fun, was to come up with a survey of 6 to 10 questions to gauge our audience’s interest and knowledge level on our topic. We then would take these anonymous surveys and adjust our presentation’s based on this feedback. One of my survey questions was, “What is your overall impression of astrology? Nonsense Useful Fun.” And I asked them to circle all that apply. Another question was to rate their curiosity level on a scale of 1 to 10. Out of the 27 students, most are curious, but there are at least 6 people whose impression of astrology is nonsense with a curiosity level of 2 to 3. And that’s ok. For the curious to very curious, I hope not to bore them and to present something new.