In Public Speaking, Practice Makes Confidence

  Photo Credit: Kari Shuck

Photo Credit: Kari Shuck

Practice makes perfect. Practice makes perfect. Practice makes perfect.

While reminding yourself that practice makes perfect may not actually bring perfection, it does bring confidence, in my experience. Growing up, I was always really shy and quiet. I had a few friends but was never the student who liked to raise their hand to give the teacher an answer. During my last year of high school, I took a speech class.

My first time giving a speech was terrifying; my legs trembled, my palms were sweaty and it was difficult for me to not read directly from my notes.

My second semester taking college courses, I was required to take another speech class. I didn’t feel as terrified as the first time, but it was still nerve-wracking. After giving a speech, I could better see the areas in which I needed to improve. Four speeches later, I finally felt confident enough to speak in settings beyond the classroom.

I was asked by the Assistant Provost of Des Moines Area Community College – Urban Campus if I would like to be a part of the Al Exito student panel. Al Exito is an organization that provides programming and mentoring for middle and high school Latino students in Iowa. They help students develop professionally and succeed in postsecondary education. It caught me off guard because I had never even considered speaking to a group of peers about college. I knew this would be a new learning opportunity for me, so I put my fears aside to grow from it. I spoke to students about my experience at DMACC and how I felt as a Latina first-generation college student.

I was surprised that I really enjoyed speaking to them about my experience and wanted to continue to do it.

I started being asked on several different occasions to speak to incoming students. With every speech, I became more and more confident and comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Practice began to make perfect.

My most recent experience with public speaking came about through my fellowship with YSS and Iowa Homeless Youth Centers’ Golf Classic 2017 fundraising event. A staff member put together a simulation game that walked golfers through various challenging life scenarios that IHYC youth face as a way to connect them to the core issues and people YSS serves. Each golf hole had a different scenario of Ben, the fictional homeless youth, and a staff and I were at hole number five - the education hole. When golfers arrived at our hole, we spoke to them about the Post-Secondary Education Retention Program (PSERP) at the Iowa Homeless Youth Centers (IHYC) that I’m working on during my fellowship.

  Clarissa with YSS/IHYC staff, CEO, and golfers.

Clarissa with YSS/IHYC staff, CEO, and golfers.

  Clarissa at the education hole.

Clarissa at the education hole.

Once the golfers completed the course, we all went to the conference room and had lunch. I began to get nervous, just as I did back in high school, and could hardly eat. As I sat there re-reading my speech and practicing in my head, I came to the realization that I had already met all of the golfers individually. We interacted on the golf course and they were humans just like me. This allowed me relax - for a moment. When I stood in front of the group of golfers to share my speech, I was overcome with nerves again. I think that this is just something that happens naturally between the brain and the body. In the end, I was able to make the golfers laugh and connect as I shared my story with them. The entire group silently listened to my speech and when it was over, they cheered so loudly. Many of them came up to me after the speech and shared how proud they were of me and how well I did on my speech. This boosted my confidence and, now, I’m ready to take my next speech head-on.