“So in conclusion, for Americans to lose weight, they must EAT...” were some of the final confident words that escaped my mouth as I firmly clinched the win for best impromptu. I found myself smiling as the judges laughed and applauded my comical yet thoughtful speech. But I wasn't always a good speaker. In fact, only a year earlier would you find a nervous, bullet-sweating version of me standing in front of another group of judges. Speaking in front of others was definitely not my forte, but neither was my ability to take risks. I soon found out just how important that ability is and how to properly use it.
Like many students, I was deathly afraid of any form of public speaking. Unlike many students, I would keep to myself most of the time. As a result, the normal signs of this fear were all there and well magnified: shaking, profuse sweating, and stuttering. It became so bad that no matter how much practice I had earlier, words would always allude me when the time came to speak in front of my peers. There had to be a way out of this terrible introversion. That is when I decided to take one of the biggest risks of my life: joining the speech and debate team. If diving head first into my fear didn't cure me, then what else will?
Meeting the debate coach turned out to be different than initially expected. Mrs Janewski was a very unassuming, yet cheerful and confident person. The strangest thing was that these values were somehow magically transferred to her audience as she spoke. Somehow I knew she was the key to all my problems. On the very first meeting she sat us all down and imparted her secret. “I know it may seem that speaking in front of people is an exclusive ability, but in reality it's an easily acquired one,” Mrs Janewski said calmly. “The key to becoming better at it is not only to practice, but to also take risks. Without taking risks, what's the point of speaking in the first place?” This struck me as very unusual, but I decided to go with it.
Over the next few weeks I was taught all the ins and outs of how to effectively reach your audience and observed many different debates in person. Not even this amount of preparation could help me get over my incapacitating fear. I observed speech after speech, but could still not bring myself to speak in front of others. After all, the whole point of debate is to be judged on how well you present yourself to others. “Don't think about the judges, just think about what you want to say,” was the advice I got from my coach and others on a daily basis. Eventually I took the next big step, one nerve-wracking Wednesday afternoon.
After weeks of preparation, I was partnered up with one of my fellow newbies and was set loose to debate whether or not landmines were a weapon of mass destruction. The format and layout was simple enough. Two teams of two people would present evidence, one at a time, either supporting a stance or disproving it. This was all done in...