NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Public speaking in a pandemic

We are taught from a young age that public speaking would be an important aspect of not only our educational lives, but future careers.

It is daunting for several people, and the idea of talking in front of more than five individuals can cause physical pain.

At Northern EssexCommunity College, there are a lot of opportunities to present in front of crowds.

The Covid-19 pandemic had changed how students learn in more ways than one.

There are a lot of things that could go wrong in the process of public speaking.

Clara Petry, second year student is not unfamiliar about going over those things in her head.

“My worst fear would probably be messing up in front of everyone, or maybe being judged. One thing that I strongly dislike about making presentations is when I can see the audience and they may appear uninterested.”

It is easy to get lost in the anxieties about performing rather than learning what the teacher prepared.

“I honestly believe that there is no need for public speaking .Sure, it is a great opportunity but from my experiences, I get more anxious about making apresentation and perfecting it rather than the actual topic of the presentation itself,” said Petry.

A full year o  fonline school has given an entirely new perspective on how things were done in the past.

“One good thing about online school is what for some classes, I have had to record a presentation.What I like about that is that I don’t have to view my audience,” she said. “On the other hand, one thing that I don’t like about online classes is the whole zoom thing. It makes me nervous to speak out and show my face, which many students can probably relate to.”

Although there is not much in this moment that professors can fix about how presentations work, there are things that could be done to take the pressure off of the individuals.

“It would help if the audience was more engaged, which would be nearly impossible because no one really cares about presentations to  begin with (which makes things worse),” said Petry. “There is so much pressure on the person who is presenting, either the speech being worth half your grade or even just making sure it’s perfect. Taking the pressure off would help ease the nerves.”

Another student has a similar take on the idea. Jordan McGovern is a third year student at Northern Essex Community college, and her major is in early childhood education.

“My worst fear for public speaking is that all of the attention is placed onto me. If I slip up even a little bit,  everyone will notice right away,” she said.

There are things that she does to calm her nerves before  making a presentation.

“A tip that has helped me would be to take deep breaths and to take your time speaking in front of people,” she said. “What also helps me is trying to picture I’m somewhere else while presenting, and before the presentation it helps to take my mind off of things by listening to music, coloring or some type of exercise.”

Besides her own personal tips, there are things that professors could do to make the situation less tense.

“Professors can talk their students through the whole process with public speaking,” McGovern said.

Unlike the previous student, McGovern thinks that public speaking is a necessary evil.

“Yes there is a need because in the future, you have no idea what your job could be like and public speaking could possibly be a very important skill that can make or break your career.”

Even though everyone’s future is uncertain with online school, the transition made things a lot easier.

“The transition to online school does help those who suffer with social anxiety because they can do the school work in the comfort of their own house with no judgment,” she said.

Another factor that could lessen the nerves is from the audience’sperspective.

“The audience can help the speaker feel less anxious if they are patient with the person speaking and let them get through the speech in their own way,” she said.

The switch to online school is not a total negative thing. For example, those who have tod eal with social anxiety and fears of public speaking are able to do it from the safety of their own home.

No longer do we have to obsess over the reactions of our peers, or stay up days before the presentation takes place. There are several students just like these two who either benefit from the transition to online school, or could use the guidance of the audience and professors around them.