The Problems with Giving a Speech

The Problems with Giving a Speech

I’ve had a chequered history regarding “giving a speech” for various reasons and have concluded that being able to speak in public confidently, is tied up with how well you understand the subject-matter.

This may sound logical. And of course it is, but I also think that how a person regards themselves at that moment in time comes into play.

Let me explain, using my own history of talking in public as an example.

Primary School

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I was gregarious. I would happily sing or talk in front of numerous amounts of people. However, by the time I was 7 years old I’d become extremely reserved around adults and other children. Often, kids seem to possess a natural confidence, but I believe events that happened to me around this age had a direct impact on how I started to view myself. I choose one special friend and basically pushed all other involvement aside for quite a few years. During this time, if I had to read out loud in class – and I was an excellent reader for my age – I felt so nervous that I’d stumble over the words in front of me. It must have been awkward for the teachers, as after a while I just was not asked to do this task any more.

Secondary School

I began secondary school and was separated from my special friend. Now it became clear that I would have to get my act together for survival purposes. I made a conscious effort to interact with other kids, and soon I was almost popular! And you know what, when I had to stand up and read out loud in class, I managed it. My self-esteem had been buttressed by being “liked” and this had a direct impact on my confidence.

Giving a Speech – Work Life

But reading in public is very different to making a speech about something in front of people. I realised at Uni that I could do this if I had a definite handle on the topic and spoke slowly. Many years later, when I was working in retail for a nutrition company, I often lead talks and discussions confidently as I knew my subject area better than most.

But what if I was put on the spot and asked to talk about something without prior knowledge or warning?

Well, that turned out to be a shambles!

I had just graduated and was on a weekend interview for an important fast track civil service job. The weekend was interesting in itself. Those chosen to attend had to stay for 3 nights in a place that must have been some kind of barracks. Then we were all subjected to various written tests. Psychometric and intelligence based. Plus several interviews with a panel of people and group discussions. All OK for me. Even the chatting in-front of a panel of 4 or 5 people about myself and my life – fine.

However, then came the finale! The whole group who were there for the tests – about 25 of us, and the panel, were all in an auditorium together. We were each given a topic and asked to get up on the stage and talk about it for three minutes.

My turn was near the end and as I watched all of them make such a success out of their few minutes of fame I started to worry. Then, I literally got stage fright. I can’t remember what my topic was but let’s say it wasn’t particularly difficult. But I felt unprepared and vulnerable. It is a long time ago, but I don’t think I made it through the three mins. My brain became a haze of nothing!

The experience of what it felt like losing my mind for a few minutes stayed with me for some time. Those of you who know me would probably say I am quite self-possessed and socially aware. I do not suffer from anxiety in group situations at all. So what happened that afternoon, although I laugh about it now, must have been a phobia coming to life.

A week later, we got the results of the weekend through the post. I had done so well on all the other tests, I was still offered the job, but not on the fast track. It’s a funny old world…

giving a speech
Giving a Speech

12 thoughts on “The Problems with Giving a Speech

  1. Ooh … I would absolutely detest having to speak in front of a group of people I didn’t know. I would just dissolve into a babbling mess.
    I much prefer to remain “modest” and not draw attention to myself !!!
    Xxx – K

  2. I haven’t thought of it like that, but I think you are quite right that the preparation and knowledge and how you feel at that moment is a huge influence on how well or not a speech goes!
    ~ Marie xox

  3. You touched on something that’s really key for me and doing speeches: being prepared and knowing the subject. Like you, I would have blanked at the unprepared three minute speech, but happy you got the job offer anyway 🙂

  4. I can be confident when I know my group, and if it is a small-ish gathering, but a large group would probably have me tongue-tied. Over thinking and imposter syndrome have reared their ugly heads in my life.
    I know you as pretty self assured May, it must’ve been quite a shock to realise your nerves had blanked your mind. I’ll bet if you’d had your turn earlier you’d have aced it.

  5. It is interesting that we lose the ability to perform when be become so self-conscious and self-aware, The things they ask us to do at interview often aren’t skills we need for the job which is weird. At lest they had the sense to hire you 🙂

  6. A mí me ha ocurrido en algunos momentos dados de mi vida que me he quedado en blanco aunque por suerte tampoco fueron definitivos y pasaron

    It has happened to me at certain times in my life that I have gone blank, although luckily they were not definitive either and passed.

  7. I was way worse in school but as I’ve got older 64 I work with a lot of younger people I really enjoy it when they say hi when I walk in it gives me confidence and makes me feel younger than I am

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