I was having an interesting discussion the other day about presentations and how over time, education and work, the idea of the presentation to a group of colleagues has changed. In grade school, the idea of doing a 5 minute speech was terrifying and I didn’t know how I would be able to come up with enough to say. Then high school came and presentations became a group activity, generally averaging twenty minutes. I would become nervous as my time to speak came closer and I would talk quickly at times but was always able to pull it together in the end. Then university came and in my final everything changed. In my history program I was not required to speak in front of the class until my final year, and it was in that year that I overcame any remaining issues I had with public speaking.
I have to attribute my ability to speak publicly to my history class in fourth year on Totalitarianism where I was required to present for three hours with a partner to thirty fellow students. This meant that I had to speak for an hour and a half in order to present my findings on Slobodan Milosevic; granted this is a topic with endless discussion, I was nervous. I prepared endlessly for the presentation, knowing that if at any point part of the presentation fell short, I had enough facts to move things along.
After this class, I have never felt nervous speaking in front of a group. There is the odd time I need to remind myself to slow down, give it all one last review but for the most part, that gripping fear has not been felt.
I have found it interesting how over time, my fear of speaking has dissipated through practise, but also how when I used to think that twenty minutes was going to take forever, I know think “but that’s not enough time!”.