When I joined Pace’s MCVA department last semester, I was very excited to continue developing my skills and gain relevant knowledge as a graduate student. That was until I saw the required course for “Effective Speaking” or in other words, speaking in FRONT OF PEOPLE! Public speaking was never a strength of mine by any means. I think many can relate with the fear that comes from public speaking. I figured this would just be another terrible experience where I would somehow acquire a passing grade. What I didn’t know about Professor Sager was her abundant expertise and relentless drive for her students to succeed. She truly cares about everyone’s progress and will be bluntly honest with you about how you can improve. If you truly have the desire to improve, Professor Sager will work with you through the most challenging situations and make sure your growth is noticed. I never thought I would learn so much about myself and how to navigate the professional world in a public speaking class. I would like to share some of the key takeaways and what makes this course with Professor Sager worthwhile.
- Your Desire for Success Will Determine Your Progress
This course really pushed me out of my comfort zone but it was my own perseverance and desire to get better that allowed me to progress. Struggling when speaking in front of people was something that I personally wanted to overcome as I realized it would be extremely important in different parts of life. I had struggled with this for so many years and would speed through my speeches just to get through them. Once I decided to face this challenge, I realized that even though you have great support and mentorship, such as Professor Sager and my peers, you have to be the one to push yourself through difficult situations. You have to want to do it for yourself.
- Speaking to People is More About You Than the Audience
I would always get so nervous when speaking in front of people because I would always focus on the audience and what they are thinking. The feeling of judgement would overcome my own thoughts and ideas that I wanted to express. This course taught me that giving a speech is about YOU and not the audience. When speaking in front of people, I learned to focus on what it is I’m actually trying to say and get across. Once I realized the importance of what I had to say, it allowed me to speak slower and more confidently because I discovered the impact of my words.
- Being Open and Vulnerable Will Allow You to Be Your Most Authentic Self
I really had to let my guard down for this course and be myself if I wanted to succeed. I realized what was holding me back was my fear of making mistakes. I hid behind my notes and the podium because it made me feel safe. I enjoyed the fact that Professor Sager challenged me to speak without the podium or my notes because from there I was able to grow. I felt uncomfortable and even when I did mess up I realized that it was okay and carried on. In doing so, I slowly became my true self when speaking to a large group. I was not as nervous because I was there, vulnerable in the moment.
- Having a Proper Outline Will Help You in Many Different Situations in Life
Professor Sager provided our class with a sample of a proper outline for our speeches and assured us that this outline would be useful in other situations other than public speaking. When using this outline, I realized how much easier it was to organize my ideas for my speech. The outline was formatted in a way that separated topics and main points as well as an introduction, conclusion, and any other key information we may have. Using this outline, I realized that giving a speech is much like writing a paper where all of your points need to be organized and succinct. I also realized that I could use this outline in other aspects of life like preparing for an interview. With all of my information properly organized and my key points listed, I would be much better prepared and feel more confident in speaking.
- Everyone is Just as Afraid as You Are
Watching everyone else in the class present made me realize that everyone was in the same situation as I was, afraid. Even when you choose to include the audience in your presentation, they are usually afraid or hesitant to participate. Coming to this understanding, it became much more of a collective experience when everyone was included. It made it easier on everyone to participate and speak when everyone was able to voice their ideas together.
- The Art of Interviewing is Answering Indirectly
Going into this course, I had no idea there was a specific structure and technique to interviewing. In interviews with the media and press, I learned that you are never supposed to answer questions directly. Instead, you should turn it around in a way that you get your point across. I learned that you are supposed to represent yourself and your company in the best light possible and that could mean withholding certain information or highlighting positive accomplishments. This was an important takeaway for me because it is useful in not only media interviews, but also in job interviews and pitches.
- Know Your Topic Well and Be Passionate About It
One thing that Professor Sager made sure we understood was that you must be passionate and knowledgeable in whatever you are speaking about or presenting. I learned that speaking about a topic that was personal to me made me much more comfortable and inclined to talk about it. It was helpful for me to speak on a topic such as sustainable eating because I have my own personal story behind it. It also helped me to do research on the topic so that I could provide important facts and information to my audience.
- Practice Makes Perfect
As uncomfortable as it was, the more I practiced my speech with people the better I got. Doing a mock presentation with people you know or maybe don’t know as well can really help in getting over nerves and finding the right organization for your speech. When I practiced, I felt the same nerves as I would in class and this made them more manageable when I actually presented. After listening to my speech out loud, I was able to organize and adjust my speech better before the actual presentation.
- Giving a Speech is Not About Memorization
At the beginning of the course, I was so focused on writing everything down and bringing a page full of information with me to my presentation. Throughout my speeches, I found myself forgetting key points and having to rely on reading my paper to the audience. I quickly learned that this was not the way to engage an audience. By the end of the semester, I was presenting with half a sheet of paper with a few bullet points and sentences written down. I did not rely on my paper but instead on my own experience with the topic. I used the bullet points as a guide, and in return, it allowed me to have a more natural conversation with the audience.
- Sometimes Making Sacrifices Can be Worth it
At one point in the semester, we had guest speakers from people in the industry who explained their journey into the field. One story that stood out to me was one person who spoke about making sacrifices. She spoke about taking a lower paying job in the beginning of her career because she had seen the long-term outcome as opposed to another job offer which was higher pay but temporary. She was eventually hired full-time. I think this is a very important aspect in the industry that many people don’t realize. When looking at certain opportunities, I make sure to look over each carefully. This allows me to decide which opportunity would be best fit to help me in the long run.
What really made this class worthwhile was the opportunity to progress in one of my greatest weaknesses. The opportunity to learn more about myself and communicate effectively in different business settings will stay with me forever. Presenting almost every week, I had ample time to practice whether it was presenting alone, in a group, in person, or virtually. There were so many different areas of presenting we covered that allowed me to learn so much. I could not have asked for a better professor. I believe any student would be more than lucky to learn from her!
About the Author: Christly Hernandez is a Media and Communications Graduate Student at Pace University. She has gained valuable industry experience having worked at several fast growing start-up companies and continues to develop her skills at her current internship. Christly anticipates obtaining her Master’s degree in May 2021.