A phenomenology observation on people’s public speaking

As an introvert, I have experienced anxiety before I give a public speech, or even before I talk in a group (btw, I hate introducing myself in a group, lol); I have experienced nervousness during the speech or talk; I have experienced frustrations after I give a not-so-good speech; I also have experienced fulfilled after I finish a good or just a not-so-bad speech in public. I always wonder what is it like to experience anxiety before, during, or even after people give a public speaking? Do people feel the same way? I have practiced public speaking in an international public speaking club – Toastmasters for one year and four months. Last evening, I did a phenomenology observation during our regular meeting.

A was the Toastmaster (the meeting’s director and host) for the meeting. He started his talk and made some eye contacts with a few of the audience. When he talked about today’s theme, there came some stumbling words. It seemed that he knew what he was going to say, but the words were stuck in his mouth and could not come out. He stuttered for one second; then he subconsciously turned his body slightly toward the other side, and moved his eye contact from the audience towards the air. He decided not to finish the whole sentence and moved to the next session of the meeting. B, a fat and tall American guy was the first speaker today. He used a visual-aided presentation format to deliver his speech. During his speech, there was always a smile on his face, and he always made eye contacts with audience, even when he did not remember the points he was going to say. There was an important point that he seemed not very familiar with; he naturally turned to the slides and talked to the audience: you guys can check out the link in the slide to get more information. After he finished his speech, he thanked audience with a big smile and went back to his seat. He sat down, opened a manual book, there was no smile on his face now. It seemed that he started to read the book, and did not focus too much on the following speeches. I think he was not focusing on the book; rather than that, he was thinking about his speech, which he might be unsatisfied with. C, an old American guy, is the second speaker. He delivered a very humorous speech about his personal story. He used a lot of facial expression, hand gestures, body languages, and movements in his speech. When he mentioned a girl in his story, he used a girl’s voice and movement to represent the character. It was very vivid and the audience was laughing all the time during his speech. He finished his speech with a big smile, looked at the audience, and slowly walked back to his seat and listened to the next speech. D, a good-looking Indian young guy, is the third speaker. He started with his advanced manual- the story telling manual. He stood beside the podium so that he could use the open space to show his body language during the story telling. He seemed very relaxing and confident; he had a big smile on his face, and used his hand gestures a lot during the speech all the time during his speech. After his speech, he went back to his seat and it seemed there was not much change in him. He started to enjoy the rest of the meeting, with a gentle smile in his face. E, the president of this club, is the last speaker of today’s meeting. His speech is also a personal story, which he told me in person before. He added some detailed description of the characters in his story. There was a couple of time he hesitated about what he was going to say; he paused with a fake smile and bluntly said “what I am gonna say right now?” And then he moved on and continued telling the rest of the story. He seems like a very seasoned on public speaking; when there were some stumbling words or sentences, he was not bothered by them.

This observation makes me retrospect about my public speaking experiences. It feels different in different circumstances. Sometimes, before a group discussion, I don’t feel anxious at all and (so) I don’t prepare for the talk. What happens under this circumstance is that I always come up with something I am not satisfied with and feel anxious after the talk. Sometimes, I feel a little anxious before an important speech so I prepare for the speech. During the speech, it sometime goes very well and I feel very happy and relieved after the speech. But sometimes it does not go very well as my expectation. I have gradually changed my reaction to this circumstance. A few years ago, after I did a not-so-good speech, I would pretend to ignore it and forget it; but in my deep heart, I had a fear to face it. Now, after many year’s practices, I have tried to retrospect about my preparing and speaking process and figure out where I can improve next time. I try to pay attention to the time when I feel anxious, when I don’t; I try to think about what speech format is I am good at, what format is that I am not good at; I try to stress my strength, and manage my weakness in the speeches.

I wonder do all people including introverts and extroverts feel anxious when they prepare or do public speaking? How does it feel before, during, and after they give a public speaking? How does it feel, when people give a not-so-good speech? How does people handle with the anxiety, nervousness, and frustration, if any? Are there differences between introverts or extroverts? How does it feel when they give a good speech? How does it feel if they have overcome the difficulties and become a good speaker?

So, how does it feel for different people, such as relaxed people and nervous people, before, during, and after a public speaking?


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