When asked what their biggest fear is, people normally have three answers - spiders, heights and public speaking. While I may not be a huge fan of spiders or heights, I definitely do not mind public speaking; as a matter of fact, I actually enjoy it.
When I tell someone I love public speaking, I often am met with a look of confusion. I have always had a passion for writing, and last year I was encouraged to participate in several local speech contests. I figured, "Writing a speech shouldn't be too hard. so giving one probably isn't either."
Assuming that public speaking was easy could not have been more incorrect. The amount of hours I have put in since starting speaking contests is more than I could possibly count. I thought that speaking was as easy as writing a speech and giving it, but there is much more to it.
The first aspect is making sure the speech is as well written as possible. From gathering statistics to making sure the grammar is perfect, writing is actually the most difficult part of the speech process. I am an extreme perfectionist, therefore when a sentence doesn't come out how I wanted, I spend a ridiculous amount of time working on it. Most speech contests have a time limit, which is sometimes more of a nuisance than others. I could write the most amazing speech in the world, yet have it end up being 45 seconds over the time restraint.
After the speech is written, the easiest step happens - memorization. Luckily, I have been blessed with the gift of memorization coming quite easily. After several practices, I'll essentially have the speech committed to memory. My biggest problem with memorization is skipping little words here and there. It may seem like it wouldn't matter, but when the judges have a copy of your speech, they seem to catch everything.
After the speech is memorized comes the most time-consuming part - practicing. When I first started speaking contests, I would practice a few times and assume I was ready. Now that I know what it really takes to win, I put a lot more time into my practicing. I easily spend hours reciting my speech, using a music stand as a podium. Each time I practice I notice myself getting better, even if it's in the tiniest aspect. From hand gestures to the pronunciation of certain words, practice gets you as close to perfect as possible.
Many people who are public speakers say that they, at one time, were absolutely terrified of it. Although I just recently got into public speaking, I have never been afraid of standing in front of a crowd. I definitely would not say I am a natural speaker as I have to put in so many hours of practice, but it doesn't scare me in the slightest. That isn't to say that I don't get nervous before a speech, because I certainly do.
Before I walk up to a podium, I start to get extremely nervous. However, as soon as I start reciting my speech, the nerves disappear. I forget that I was nervous at all, and focus only on what is coming out of my mouth. I try to really think about the words that I'm saying and why I feel so strongly about them. Giving speeches has quickly turned from an occasional way to pass the time to a hobby I am extremely passionate about.