I used to hate talking in front of people. I would get so nervous and my face would immediately flush. My hands would be cold and clammy, and I could feel beads of sweat run down my lower back. It was gross and uncomfortable. I don't have much of a problem now, but I still always get a little anxious when I have to speak. I think my public speaking class helped me, as did serving a mission.
I can remember the worst public speaking experience I've had. It may not seem bad in comparison to others I have heard other people tell me. This was in 10th grade, back when I was living in Berlin. Our school was selecting a 10th grader to represent the school in some leadership conference in New York. I think Steve Jobs was going to be the keynote speaker. We first had to write an essay on leadership and they selected 5 or 6 people to interview. The essay wasn't any real problem for me, and I made it to the interview stage. This is when I started to have problems.
I forgot about the whole interview until that morning, and so I naturally didn't dress up for it. When I arrived at the conference room where they were holding the interviews I saw that everyone else was dressed very professionally. I was in a t-shirt and jeans. They took us in the conference room one at a time and asked us questions. I approached each student after they came out and asked them what questions they were asked, and they told me they asked who your favorite leader was and why, and also why you think you would be the best representative for the school. I scrambled to think of something that I could say. I thought if Ghandi, but that is what everyone is saying. I just read H. Norman Schwartzkopf's biography, but I couldn't think of any specifics about his life. Maybe Brigham Young? But then I would have to talk about my faith and that would be uncomfortable...
When I was brought in the room, they sat me down at the head of a big conference table with all of the head administrators sitting around, looking at me. I felt totally unprepared. They asked me who my favorite leader was and I said something like "Um, General H. Norman Schwartzkopf, because he's really good at ... um ... leading people. He did a lot of good things in the Army, I think."
Then they asked my why I would be a good representative of the school. I had totally forgot about that question! I was so busy trying to think of a good leader. So I said, " .... ummm ... I think ... I think that, um, I would be good ... because ... ummm ... well ...." And then I just sat there. Literally. I didn't say anything else. It was a nightmare. People were just staring at me, waiting for me to respond. I fully expected to wake up sweaty in my bed, but instead I just sat there, sweating, in that chair. 10 seconds of silence. 15 seconds. Finally, the vice principle coughed and asked me another question, but I didn't hear it. I just said ,"Hmmm? I don't know..." I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I was so embarrassed about how horrible it went that whenever I go in for interviews at a new job, I always think of that situation. I always prepare really well for interviews now.
As you can probably guess, I wasn't selected to go to New York. But I did learn first hand what a really mortifying public speaking experience can be like.