Day 8: Practice Makes Perfect
Some things get better over time. Maybe you started something like Couch to 5K in the beginning of the year, and now you’ve run your first marathon. Perhaps you couldn’t boil water, and now you’re a gourmand in the kitchen. What is something you started in the beginning of 2012 that you can now do better at the end? How was the journey along the way?
By the end of 2012, one thing that I think I got better at is public speaking.
It’s simply because I had many opportunities to practice this past year.
Now some of you may think that because I do theater I automatically am a great public speaker. Well folks, you are actually wrong! When I started public speaking I was in fact, pretty terrible.
It started when I took a public speaking class when I was an undergrad at TCNJ. I thought that I would be glorious at it. Man, was I wrong. Even though I could stand on a stage and act like someone else no problem, I totally sucked when it came to being myself and giving a speech. It was a little disheartening to me.
What actually helped me get better at it was when I started teaching at UMD. Having to lecture in front of students twice to three times a week is a great way to get better at public speaking. And I in fact, did improve.
But I always relied on my notes. That was actually a comment someone made in my teaching evaluations: “she reads off the PowerPoint slides.” I didn’t want to become one of those professors! I want to be able to use my own experiences to speak off the cuff and share my knowledge with my students.
So this year, I had some great opportunities to hone in on this skill. I didn’t teach this past semester, but I was invited to give some seminar/workshop type things to groups of students. That helped out a lot.
The second thing that helped tremendously was going on the academic job market. When you have to do a teaching presentation or a research presentation in front of people who are evaluating you, you better do one heck of a job. And so, I practiced so I wouldn’t have to rely on my notes, and gave the best presentations I could muster. I’ll admit that the first interview wasn’t my best. But by the last one I knew the material so well that I’m sure I could do it in my sleep.
So as you see, it has been a pretty long journey toward becoming a stronger public speaker and presenter. But I’ve had some great opportunities over the years to perfect this skill, and now I’m more confident than ever. Next up – my dissertation defense, perhaps one of the most important presentations I will have to ever make in my life. But stay tuned.