Friday, June 25, 2021

Getting Over the Fear of Speaking in Class

Growing up, I avoided public speaking as much as I could. My class participation marks in high school were always below average, and, once I went to university, the large class size made it very easy to avoid speaking up. This time around, I went into law school promising myself I would overcome my fear.

It might be that the online environment made it easier, as I attend lectures sitting alone in my room and not in a classroom with 70+ people, but I can quite honestly say that I have (at least for the most part) gotten over my former fears.

For me, preparation has been key. During my bachelors, I went into each lecture having skimmed the material, but never felt like I had enough of a grasp of the content to join in on the discussion. Nowadays, I will read through the assigned pages at least twice before each lecture. That way, I go into class well-prepared, and with enough of a handle on the material to feel like I have a contribution.

Another thing that was helpful was attending a course with a small class size. This semester, I am enrolled in a class that is made up of myself and only five others (not counting the professor). At first, I found it quite daunting as the small size meant that the chances of being cold-called were much higher. However, the course has become one that I genuinely look forward to attending each week. A small class makes it easier to hold a discussion, and it also means that the “audience” is smaller, too.

Finally, I’ve discovered that the more I engage/raise my hand, the easier it becomes. I force myself to either ask a question or answer one by the third lesson of a course. Once I’ve gotten that first moment out of the way, it becomes a lot easier to repeat the action.

In all honesty, I’m still not the most frequent participator, but now, when I feel like I have something to add, I no longer find myself breaking out into a cold sweat at the thought of raising my hand. (I’d like to say that that’s an exaggeration, but no, public speaking of any form really did terrify me.)

To those who have always been comfortable with public speaking and participating in class, I’d like to say that I am very envious of you. But to anyone who dislikes (or even fears) public speaking, law school might be the perfect chance to overcome it. And, anyway, odds are that you’ll be cold-called at some point.