The Shyness Project

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Speech Week and Standing up for What I Believe In

This is a little off topic but because this was really a monumental week for me I thought I would share.  I had one speech and one presentation to give in school this week, and I led table topics (impromptu speaking) at Toastmasters this week as well.

In International Relations I presented my research relating to violence in South Africa.  I spoke with passion and used emphasis on the important points.  I presented along with 6 other people in my human rights group who each had their own topic and was the 5th person to present in our group.  We all brought up desks to the front and sat next to each other for support as one of us went up to the podium at a time to give our presentation.  I thought bringing all the desks up was kind of silly, but I agreed because the others were a lot more nervous than I was.  Some of them said the reason they didn’t apply for CSU’s was because they didn’t want to take speech.  So we sat together and I exchanged smiles with some of them who were freaking out while they waited for their turn.  We made a solid support group and it was nice actually sitting with them.  It’s amazing how many people who you wouldn’t think are nervous at all for presentations really do get nervous beforehand.  You would just never be able to tell when you see them speaking. Surprisingly I was completely calm the whole time, until the person before me began her speech and I realized I would be up soon.  Only then did I start to feel a little nervous.  It was really nice to feel so comfortable.  We all did really well and we fostered a great classroom discussion afterward. We could tell that our teacher was thrilled with us and our excellent presentation.

That night after the presentation on Wednesday, I had to lead Table Topics at Toastmasters as well.  I brought in a bunch of stuffed animals of cartoon characters and gave introductions on each one.  Then I asked them to speak about the cartoon or character.  My dad gave his third speech as well on his love for baseball and sports in general, and Mernie gave a speech on her dog Rosie who passed away.  It was a good night.

The next day on Thursday, I had a persuasive speech in Speech class to give.  I had signed up to go first on the following Tuesday, but she had announced that anyone who wanted to go this Thursday could because there were only 3 speakers.  I was ready with mine so I decided to go for it.  Before I thought I would want to go first to get my speech over with, but with this I realized I could make a much deeper impact if I went last.  So I did.  All day I was nervous though and the speech was in the back of my mind in my other classes.  Speech is my last class of the day, and beforehand I have Career/Life Planning and Intro to Sociology.  I actually felt extremely nervous for once, and like throwing up even, because this issue makes me so emotional.  I knew what I was going to talk about was going to be controversial and might not be well received by a good portion of the class.  But I wanted to challenge myself and give a speech that required me to stand up for what I believe in, even in the face of opposition.  I wanted to do something to make a difference in an issue I care about and to stand up for all the men and women who it affects.

When I got to the class and sat down, I was nervous.  I tried to actually listen to the speeches- at least the first one- and not look at my notes.  When I look at my notes I tend to freak out and mess up more.  Heather went first and she gave her persuasive speech on donating organs. It obviously meant a lot to her because she started crying during her speech and got choked up, which made me teary eyed too.  I whispered “good job!” to her as she sat down and gave her a reassuring smile as she wiped her tears. Then Ivan gave his speech on being safe from hacking, then Ralph did one on health supplements.  Then it was my turn, and I set down the water bottle I had been taking sips from constantly all class period.  I walked to the back of the room and handed Mrs. East my bibliography, outline, and criteria sheet.  Then I walked to the front, looked at my audience, and began with a sad story.

I felt my hands shake as I told the story.  I felt tears come to my eyes.  But I gave my speech as I planned, with vocal variety, and passion.  I got sad, I got angry, I got serious, and I got optimistic.  I shared with them my vision as to why same-sex couples should have just the same rights to marry as any other couple.  I gave them a simple solution to get involved- to sign the petition to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act on the human rights campaign site. (Sign it too, if you like.)  I got applause. Then the room was silent as the people sat and reflected on all I had said.  I handed out my handouts with the info on the petition to each person in the class, one by one down each aisle.  They quietly accepted, one guy with an outstretched arm and a thank you even.  I sat down and Heather told me good job as well, and offered me a tissue.  I got my score, 100%, with the comments, “very conversational- no, very passionate delivery, very well written and structured speech, great job!”, and left the room.  Then I cried.  And I couldn’t stop crying.  I cried the whole 35 minute drive home.  I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I couldn’t believe I had just stood up for my beliefs in the face of opposition and talked about an issue that is so emotionally difficult to talk about.  That was probably one of the bravest things I’ve ever done in my life.

Three speeches in two days- what a whirlwind.  I am so glad I joined Toastmasters, because in the past all this public speaking would have brought me a lot more anxiety.  I have without a doubt become much more comfortable and confident in my speaking abilities.  And I am very glad I took the leap and joined Toastmasters over the summer.

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