Public Speaking 101

Maya’s Story:

Hello friends! Before I begin my story I should introduce myself. My name is Maya Konwinski, i’m seventeen years old and i’m a senior at Millard West High School. Some of my passions include, public speaking, show choir, reading, traveling, cooking, and helping others. I love to spend time with friends and play with my hedgehog, Sawyer. I’m sure you’ll get to know me better throughout my other blogs, enjoy!

My freshman year of high school I had no clue who I was or who I wanted to be, but i did know one thing: I loved to use my voice. Whether it was for singing or just talking to my friends about what i did that summer, I loved to talk. During the activity fair I walked up and down the tables and nothing seemed to catch my eyes. Band seemed cool but i couldn’t play an instrument, and I was never good at volleyball or soccer. So, I kept walking, until I reached a table that had about twelve large trophies on it, the forensics table. Now I know what you’re thinking: why is there a table that looks at dead bodies and win awards for it? I was thinking the same thing. So of course I started talking to the people at the table where they told me about forensics, which is actually competitive speaking, and I knew I had to do it.

Flash forward to my senior year of highschool, I have learned and done so much with forensics. I have written countless amounts of speeches, made so many friends, won tournaments, and even went to state and nationals, twice. Speech has taught me so many things, like how to capture the audience with my voice, how to write an effective speech and how to get over my fear of public speaking.

It is a bit crazy that a person who loves to talk has a fear of public speaking but it’s true. Whenever I am in front of a crowd I get very nervous. My palms would sweat and my words came out like mashed potatoes. I was a wreck whenever I talked in front of classes and sometimes just in front of family members. When I first started forensics I would almost cry before speaking because I was afraid of being judged or messing up.

But here’s the trick to getting over a fear of public speaking, you have to talk in front of as many people as possible and as often as you can do it. By putting yourself in the position of public speaking you are forcing yourself to face that fear and each time you do it you will become more comfortable with it. Of course it will take time but, trust me, it works. You just needed to remember that public speaking is something worth mastering. It will help you all throughout life. Public speaking skills can help you get a job, succeed in school, make friends, and hey, you might even be able to win a few awards.

I have learned so many things about myself that I wouldn’t have learned if I had never started public speaking. I learned how much I value perfection, friendship, winning and support from my loved ones. If you ever have the chance to do speak competitively, whether it’s in middle school, high school or college – definitely do it. It’s a life changing thing that I have been honored to experience. On this adventure I have learned lots of tips and tricks to becoming a wonderful speaker.

-Breathing is key to giving a good speech
-You need to push out the nerves through your feet

My great friend Maddi, who I have been competing with since the beginning, does an amazing job with giving tips. She, like myself, is a pro speaker and a wonderful friend. You can read her story and tips below. Just remember you deserve to be heard,  you need to use your voice for those who can’t speak, and don’t be afraid to be yourself no matter what!  

Maddi’s Story:

Hello! Before I begin my story, I’d also like to give an intro. My name is Maddi Clark, and i’m currently a senior at Millard West High School. Some of my passions include art, music, traveling, volunteering, and public speaking. I usually spend time hanging with my friends, dogs, or trying to put my creativity out into the world. Enjoy my story and others that will soon follow!

Throughout my life I have always been fairly shy and quiet around strangers, like many people are. Up until the end of my middle school career I was terrified of projects. I could scoot by without conversation and the dawning realization that I was going to either have to overcome this  paranoia, or have a really tough time in high school. Like Maya, I found the forensics speech team  through the activities fair. They all had so much energy it could’ve blinded the gym. They were handing out pamphlets, displaying beautiful, large trophies, performing their pieces for the whole school to see, and had a certain confidence I had never seen before. Looking back now, the first step of simply writing my name down on a list changed my life forever. Because of forensics speech I finally feel comfortable in my own skin, I finally have been able to walk and talk with a confidence I didn’t know I had inside me. I’ve finally learned that I can do whatever I set my mind to, no matter how terrifying it might seem. Speech has given a girl, who thought she’d never be able to speak in front of a crowd, a voice. A voice that has carried her to district, state, and national level tournaments, as well as made her life so much easier to live.

My start in speech was definitely a long road of realizing my own capabilities and talent. I remember being very reserved at first. I tried to avoid practicing in front of anyone for any possible reason I could think of, which resulted in poor placements at tournaments and not much improvement on my part. However, I developed a coping mechanism that still works fairly well. Most of my pieces are explaining or reenacting someone else’s story, and I found by putting myself in the mindset of being someone else, and not acting as myself, I felt much more confident. By not thinking of it as myself giving a speech, and thinking of it as someone else giving it, it quieted a lot of my anxiety, gave me a more positive outlook on my performances and I soon started to improve in competitions dramatically. I still use this tactic for my pieces today, and even when I’m meeting new people, and it’s really helped me to cope with my anxiety over performing. In this case, practice really does make perfect.

I do understand public speaking is not for everyone, and something like a speech team won’t always change that . However, I’ve learned a few things in my high school career that can help ease at least some anxiety before an oral assignment or project.

I think the most important thing to remember is to go into the speech with a positive outlook on the outcome, and on your speech in general. A good idea may be to practice in front of at least two people, for feedback, on what you’re presenting correctly and what could be fixed. Practice is a very easy way to calm nerves and build you confidence in the worth and power of your words. One of the most important things I can tell you is to breathe, as silly as it sounds. Breathing long and slow breaths before your performance can help tremendously decrease your nerves and give you a chance to look at the situation and address it properly.

Public speaking and communication in general is so important to your further education, future jobs and careers, and in getting around in everyday life. Use your voice, own that room, and speak with the confidence and skill i know you all possess.


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