Public Speaking Anxiety

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Public Speaking Anxiety
From a tender age, I was always nervous about speaking it public or rather being in situations where I had to address people or read in public, be they my peers, or those older or younger than me. Still, within me, I admired numerous eloquent speakers both on television and other areas of social life, though I could not muster enough courage to publicly address others. Consequently, throughout childhood even college; I managed to avoid those situations that required me to be in the limelight addressing others. My first public speaking experience happened in college where, as part of the required course work, every student was supposed to conduct a study on a social issue or topic of their choice, and present their findings in a college symposium that would combine colleges from our school district. The presentation was scheduled for the last weeks of the college semester hence we had enough time to prepare. Accordingly, i chose to conduct a study on the attitudes of young people in my community, regarding obesity. I was extremely conversant with this issue thus the research part was easy. The presentation required a discussion of study’s background, the methodology used as well as the key findings. The thirty minute presentation was to be accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation which I proficiently prepared. However, I lacked any experience in public presentation and was scared of facing audiences. Consequently, for several days before the presentation, I would be incessantly overwhelmed with waves of physical anxiety that led to escalated feelings of stress, insomnia, and an outbreak of continual negative thoughts. Sitting in the audience on the day of the symposium, I began feeling exceedingly anxious, had sweaty palms, my mind was racing, and my heart was pounding as I watched my classmates ace their presentations. When my turn on the podium came, I was so nervous, I could not talk let alone introduce myself. When I finally did speak, my voice shook, and my hands shook, and I was barely able to discuss my study. At some point, I let the PowerPoint presentation run without any commentary. I was paralyzed. After almost 15 minutes, I finished my disoriented presentation and left the podium. Unlike the previous presentations, there was no response from the audience. Furthermore, as expected, I scored poorly in the course yet I had conducted an excellent research. Later, after self reflection and discussions with my instructor, I discovered that I suffered from a severe case of public speaking anxiety or speech anxiety. Public speaking anxiety or Speech anxiety is also referred to as communication apprehension, which is generally a fear of public speaking. Public speaking anxiety emanates from a fundamental fear of being analyzed, studied or assessed by others. Public speaking anxiety is a common phenomenon, whereby almost 70% of individuals experience a certain degree of speech anxiety, according to the University of Southern Mississippi Speaking Center. In fact, according to the University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information, various poll results prove that, compared to other stressful events, including divorce, bankruptcy, and death, public speaking intimidates Americans more (Verderber, Verderber and Sellnow, Essential Speech 32). Speech anxiety arises from the speaker inherent feelings that he or she may be unsuccessful in satisfying the expectations of his or her audience. In particular, the composition and make-up of the audience is the underlying cause of speech anxiety especially when the speaker perceived audience expectations do not match the perceived speaker abilities. Key research has shown that public speaking anxiety causes both psychological and physical symptoms. These include physical anxiety symptoms like increased sweating, rapid heart and breathing rate, flushing, shaking, dry mouth,...
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