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?


My first experience speaking in front of 200

In September 1st, I talked at the 2015 graduate & professional students orientation panel with four PhD peers. The topic focused on What I Wish I Had Known When I Started My Doctoral Program?”  It was a big success; people liked it. More importantly, it is a breakthrough for me.

This is my first time speaking in front of 200 people. Even back to when I was in China, I didn’t get a chance to do such kind of public speaking. If I was given the chance, I am not very sure I have the courage to take the challenge or not.

However, after one-year-practice in Toastmaster, I feel much more relaxed speaking in public. I am not anxious when I am preparing my speech; I know if I give myself some time to prepare and practice the speech, I would be totally fine, even in a large stage and a huge hall like this. Surprisingly, I enjoyed speaking in front of 200 people in a big hall. It turned me on after I spoke out the first sentence. This speech is even more successful than some of my speeches in the Toastmaster club, speaking in front of 20-30 people. Reflecting on the experience, I believe there are two reasons: first, I prepared and practiced this talk a lot, and I was eager to share my PhD journey with audiences; second, it was designed in an informal conversation format. In addition, I also find it’s so important to make the speech funny, interesting, and memorable.

I am so happy for myself, because I know how hard it is for me. BIG BIG hug to myself! Well done!

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A public speaking workshop in summer 2015

I organized and facilitated a public speaking workshop in this summer (Aug, 7th, 2015) at LT media lab at St Paul campus in UMN. Thanks to my toastmaster friends – Char, Cassie, Devlin, Pam, my colleagues – Bodong, Fei, Hui, Lana, Kristina, and other participants.


  • Introduce yourself by 3 statements: 2 truths and 1 lie (or wish)
  • Try to integrate these 3 statements into a short story
  • In pairs, tell your partner a good and a not-so-good experience on public speaking
  • Change partners, tell the same story focusing on the opening and ending
  • Four toastmasters showcase speeches on the academic presentation (by Cassie), storytelling (by Pam), the public speaking training process (by Char), the personal story on public speaking (by Devlin) etc.
  • Share take-aways

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Speech08 – Get Comfortable with Visual Aids: Go Swimming!

Speech presented at 6.01.2015, MinneapolisToastmasters Club 75 

Go swimming!

Every year, there has been one of my new year’s resolutions which has never changed on my list, that is “learn how to swim”. I’ve tried it almost a dozen times, and each time, my heart jumps to 140+ beats-per-minute after watching the beautiful blue water. Already 29 years old and I still could not swim.

This inability has always been my insecurities and embarrassments, since most of my friends are able to swim and seems that they don’t understand why I have the dreadful fear of water.

I tried everything, took swimming class with kids, watched swimming training videos, talked with professional swimmers, and still failed.

Swim rings? Tried them. Loved them, I even wore two swim rings and tried not to die in the sea. My friend laughed at me, and yes, I know it’s silly, but I don’t want to die in a shark’s belly!

Kick boards? Tried them. I barely moved at all and — as someone who is usually keep cool — felt humiliated. My friend even suggested me to wear flip flops on my hands to help me float. How dare you give me this suggestion?

Swim noodles? Tried them. My waist will never forgive me. Is swimming supposed to bend over on my waist and roll down to nowhere in the pool? This makes me more scared! Maybe they should be used like this?

Water is a source of fear and panic for me. This feeling is exhausting and unpleasant. After all these good tries, I was prepared to give up. But I didn’t. First of all, it’s a good reason to show my hard body workout. Another reason, I don’t wanna die because of global warming.

The real reason is this: my roommate told me she learned how to swim in a swimming class in the U. and this got my attention again. My fighting will came back again. Then I went to a summer swimming class. During the whole one-month class, I spent most of the time at the just-here-to-chat lane at the corner of the pool. I could only swim in that area, I was even not able to float. One day, the instructor took us to the deep water and asked us try not to sink down in 30 seconds without any help. She did not let us hang on the edge, nor did she allow us to go back into shallow water. I screamed and yelled yet in my helpless fear I had no choice but to start. I don’t know how many seconds I struggled in the water. I used all my strengths, my arms, my legs, and my screams. Finally, she offered me a noodle and dragged me to the edge. This was the end of the summer class. I was a little less frightened of water after the practice in that summer class.

I am too resilient to just stop there. I took a beginner swimming class again in this spring. This time, I was much more confident because several classmates were at the same level as me in the summer. They only stayed in the shallow corner, like what I did in the summer. While I tried to cross the pool at the second class, I succeeded. Getting into the water is the first step of learning how to swim. It is only by letting go and trusting that the water will hold me up that I can learn to swim. This is far more important than technique, but it takes time. The only thing I need to do now is to practice my strokes. After some practices, I can do freestyle and breast stroke for 50 meters, I can float on my back, do elementary backstroke, and I can do dolphin kick as well. Although I am still afraid of open water and deep water, I can survive with my floating skill and I am much better than before.

Learning swimming has taught me so much about fear itself. Fear keeps us safe, but it also prevents us from moving forward. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you ask me, I would speak up more often and more publicly, I would encourage myself being ambitious in leadership positions, I would set up my own independent research organization and work for myself in the future, I would go out of comfort zone, in general. Trying to do what we are afraid to do is the only way to get improved and developed in our life.

Speech07 – Research Your Topic: Janusian Thinking

Speech presented at 8.10.2015, MinneapolisToastmasters Club 75 

Janusian Thinking. by Fan Ouyang


You might wonder who is this weirdo with two faces? He is a Roman God called Janus who has two faces, each looking in two different directions. If I ask you right now, do you wanna be him? You might answer, why I wanna be him, with two faces? For ladies, you might say: I have got enough work to do with my one face! I don’t wanna waste more makeups! After this speech, you might change your mind.


I have experienced this kind of contradictory life myself, in many ways. As a Chinese young generation, I have confronted the same public norms and standards of the society, taking same gaokao exams to college, striving for a stable job, getting married in the similar age, having 1-2 kids, hoping kids could take care of our later life. I have tried my best to get rid of this sameness. In contrast, Americans are more proud on their individuality, their non-conformity. In a society with the variety and diversity, like United States, I have met more people who do not bow too much to the conventions, and people who are more open and respectful to this diversity.


I also have experienced boredom and zest. Sitting in an office is boring, living in the suburbs is boring, attending endless meetings is boring. Creating new projects is exciting, practicing swimming is exciting, reading a new book is exciting, preparing for a speech is exciting. I feel passionate particularly when I pursue something difficult yet possible. As Russell wrote in his book – The conquest of happiness “The human is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life [and] the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness”.


The consciousness and unconsciousness are another kind of yin and yang I have undergone in my life all the time. I have written some papers recently. I have found, for example, when I have to write upon some difficult parts or topic the best plan is to think about it with very great intensity for a few hours or a few days, with my restless conscious. In the meantime, quickly write down whatever I have thought. After that, I don’t consciously concentrate on the topic any more but my mind still works in some unconscious level, and for me the best ideas and solutions come up in unconscious moment, particularly when I am taking a shower, driving my car, or drying my hair.


When it comes to our thinking, how to take advantage of it? A psychological researcher Albert Rothenberg identified a creative process called “Janusian thinking,” a process named after a Roman God who has two faces, each looking in the opposite direction. Janusian thinking is the ability to imagine two opposites or contradictory ideas, concepts, or images existing simultaneously. A person who can combine two contradictory ideas together is considered as a more creative person.


The traits that distinguish creative people are complex. They contain contradictory extremes – they are both aggressive and cooperative, they have a great deal of physical energy and also being quiet at rest, they are playful and hardworking, they can combine reality and fantasy together, they can swing between inner reflection and social interactions, they are modest and at the same time express a sense of self-assurance, they experience suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment in the creative process.


Creative individuals to a certain extent escape rigid gender role stereotyping. Research demonstrated that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one too. “creativity, by its very nature, requires both sensitivity and independence.”


In leadership, well-rounded leaders are those with the skills and personal attributes needed to adapt, act with flexibility, and combine what appear to be opposites: toughness and compassion, self-confidence and humility, strong individuals and good team players. Even Steve Jobs admitted at the end of his life, “I was hard on people sometimes, probably too hard.” If he had lived longer, he might have mellowed a little without losing his power, being demanding towards work and being soft with his people.


Janusian thinking also fit for a good friend. What kind of friends would you like? You want to have a friend being tough or nice, demanding or accommodating? In a friend, I am not looking for a person who will agree with everything that I say; rather what I am looking for is a person who will challenge me, a person who will push me, a person who will help me get the truth. On one hand, being tough, rough, demanding, honest, on the other hand, also being soft, accepting, nurturing , nice. A real good friend is a beautiful enemy.



Now it’s our time to think about how can we develop ourselves with Janusian thinking, as a friend, as a leader, as a coworker, as a parent, as a kid? how can we being ourselves and in the meantime building connections to people who we care about?


Thank you. Janusian Thinking.


Speech06 – Vocal Variety: A ghost story

Speech presented at 8.24.2015, MinneapolisToastmasters Club 75 

a ghost story with background music (dreams become real)

It was in the early summer in 2007, my first year work in a college. I was assigned to the campus and teach courses there. It was at the suburb area in a small town, about one hour drive distance from the main campus. My supervisor offered me a temporary apartment to take some rest after work.

After the first day of my work, I was tired and went back straight to the apartment to take a nap and get ready for the class in the afternoon. The apartment is in a very old building. I can tell the history of the building when I got there. It was under some big camphor trees and the outside wall was surrounded by many creeper plants. I went into the building, and the apartment is at the top of it. I open the door, and feel a little chilly in it. There is a bit of lonely kinda of feeling there. I can tell that it hasn’t been occupied for a long time. It has three bedrooms, one is locked and I didn’t know what were in it, another was full of dusted books, chairs and a desk. In my bedroom, there were one small single size bed, a computer desk, and a book shelf. some part of the white wall was about to peel off and turned to grey. But I don’t have any other place to stay and my supervise doesn’t ask me to pay for this apartment, so, I really appreciate the offer.

It’s a pretty intense work in this campus, I have to teach courses all day from 8 to 5. So after four classes in the morning, I am very tired so I went bed straight and fell asleep soon. I don’t know how long it is, at some point I suddenly wake up. I know I have work to do in the afternoon, so I want to sit up and get out of my bed. I am conscious and aware that I am still in the bed, I am about to be late for my work, and someone or something is on top of me. I can’t see it clearly. It is very shadowy, like a dark monster. But it’s a powerful presence. Then I feel a heavy weight on my chest, pushing on my chest, getting heavier and heavier on me. It feels like if I don’t make every effort to move I will be stuck like that forever. My mind tells me “wake up, sit up, and get out of the bed!” but my body doesn’t follow it at all. Suddenly, “PUM”my bedroom door closed and the sound wakes me up. immediately, the dark shadow disappeared. This whole process didn’t last for a long time. I didn’t feel very terrified. I woke up and went out of the room for work.

A week after that, I went to work in this campus again. It is still a very intense work and I even don’t remember about what happened the other day. I get out of my work and get back to the apartment to take a rest again. This time, I closed my bedroom door. I fell asleep very soon. But suddenly my consciousness wakes me up. My eyes open and I see the door is opening slowly. A dark shadow move toward me through the door. And he is getting closer and closer to my bed, to me. I still can’t see his face. I want to wake up, I want to sit up, I want to run away from him. I tried many times, he is getting closer to me, but I failed. I said to myself, Come on Why won’t you just move?! It’s going to get me!

I struggle for a few minutes, then I give up upon moving my body. I turn to my voice. I talk to myself, please scream and let someone hear my voice and get the monster away from me. But I can’t make any noises. My mouth starts to feels dry, feels like it’s being held together with rubber bands. I can start to open it but it’s immediately brought to a close again. I am really terrified then. Finally a thought enters in my mind to reach for something to hit the dark shadow. so I got a crazy idea to imagine me holding a knife and I used that to stab it. and when I start to stab it, it eventually left. I am able to fully wake up and jumped out of bed. I looked around my room, no one is there and nothing changed. It took me about 3-5 minutes to calm down myself and go to work.

This situation happened for several times when I was sleeping in this old apartment. After that school year, I moved to the main campus, and this has never happened again. I know that this actually did not occur and that it was just an intense sleep paralysis. But other than this explanation, I would like to think that some soul or spirit has been trapped in that apartment. He feels lonely and then he found me.

Other ghost background music: colorless aura, bent and broken, decline (by kmmusic)

Speech05 – Your Body Speaks: Why I am single?

Speech presented at 7.13.2015, MinneapolisToastmasters Club 75 

Why are you single Fan? You are cute and smart, why are you still single? For the last few years, I have got this question a lot, from my parents, my friends, even from some strangers. My grandpa is also within these people. My grandpa is a fortune teller, he drew a lot for me last week. The lot says that “You need to give up some of your fun time to find a partner.”God thinks I am still single because I live in a pleasure and idleness life. I really hope this is the real reason why I am single. But, unfortunately, my god, No! Everyone might live in an idleness lifestyle except poor phd students.

Fellow toastmasters, honor guests, today I will tell you four secrets about why I am still single. Please help me keep the secrets.

First, I have got enough laundry to do, I don’t want to get more. I am a busy person, I have got tons of things to do- doing research, reading, writing, and other things like doing toastmasters. Doing laundry and housework is not my priority. I’d like to keep them being finished as soon as possible. And I don’t think guys can help me do laundry or housework. I had a boyfriend, who tried to do laundry for me, and made my favorite white T-shirt into a pink one. So do I need a boyfriend, No, thanks!

The second reason, I don’t want to throw away my snow boots. Guys keep giving me weird outfit advices. For example, one of my ex boyfriend felt bothered with ugg boots. “What is that feathers-in-the-hair thing on you feet?” “Honey, I have my own dressing style, leave me alone, ok?” although I always changed my style when I was a young lady. Moreover, I don’t like wearing makeups all the time. Without a boyfriend, in the morning, I don’t need to get up earlier than him, wear my makeups and get well dressed in front of him. At night, I don’t need to wait for him and clean my face and take off makeups until he get into bed. Do I need a boyfriend, No, thanks!

Thirdly, I am single because I play Tinder. Instead of going to a bar or a party, I swiped left with car selfie, fish selfie, bathroom selfie or other kinds of selfie in the last few months. (don’t laugh and judge, I know some of you guys are on Tinder as well, I will keep the secret for you!) Social media is a channel for meeting new people, but unfortunately the odds of the successful date is very low. I need to be very very patient to find a guy make me swipe right, and wait for a good conversation from which we could start a date, not a one night stand. So Tinder, continue scaring me with selfies which will keep me single forever!

The last reason, actually it is the only real reason why I have decided to be single, is that I don’t want to rush into a marriage just because I am over 30 years old. I actually think that maybe I have skipped my first marriage because I know what I don’t want. There should really be a present for my wisdom, right? Maybe the present is a guy who is intelligent, witty, or even handsome, who can be my soulmate, lover and best friend forever. Do I need a guy to get married and then lose the chance to meet my soulmates, no thanks!

Grandpa, mom, and other strangers, please don’t feel bad for me still being single. I have chosen to be single, although I occasionally want to be around by somebody special and significant. If you have found a guy, who can do laundry himself, who don’t have topless, fish holding, and bathroom selfie in social media, who can give me plenty of freedom to be myself, and don’t want to rush into life as a routine, and most importantly, who is also waiting for a soulmate in his life, please introduce him to me. At least, I can share this why-I-am-still-single story with him, and get some positive feedback, that I can’t get from my mom.