Stop Picturing Me in My Underwear


With countless tips on how to overcome a fear of public speaking, we visit Stirling’s Public Speaking Society to find out what really works.

As the U.S. Presidential election enters its final stages, we are presented with daily examples of the power of public speaking. From sniffling, to interruptions, to clearly-stated arguments (unfortunately often coming from the moderator rather than the candidates), we witness the potential of public speaking to express opinions, captivate an audience, and sway votes.

Of course, most of us are not running for President of the United States. This does not, however, preclude us from the “horror” that is public speaking. All too often, we are reminded that public speaking is people’s biggest fear. Yet speaking in public is unavoidable, particularly in third-level education. Rather than dwell on the panic that public speaking induces, we would be better served embracing and nourishing the skill. This is what Calum Murdoch, President of Stirling’s Public Speaking Society, and his fellow members are attempting to do.

With countless assignments and deadlines, why would anyone subject themselves to talking in front of a group of strangers? The society insists that once this initial fear is overcome, it begins to pay off, particularly when it comes to presenting coursework in front of peers and lecturers.

The SPSS committee members.

It seems many students were already persuaded, with a huge turnout for the society’s Give it a Go event in September. While the nerves in the room were palpable, there was also an inherent sense of support and comradery. The society has guidelines for giving feedback in order to ensure that the speaker gains constructive criticism while others can learn from it at the same time. This helps to combat any nerves people may have.

Inevitably, there are plenty of big personalities in the society, however there is no one “type” of SPSS member. Students from academic backgrounds ranging from maths to politics to film studies take part in weekly meet ups. These fun and casual meetings offer members various levels of involvement as they build up to their Oscar-winning speech.

Give it a Go may be over but the society always welcomes new members. Meetings are on Monday evenings and further information can be found on the society’s Facebook page or via the Student’s Union website. Expect ice breakers, guest speakers, motivational moments, and of course plenty of social events in the months to follow.

Public speaking is thankfully moving down the list of people’s biggest fears. With continued practice and support through SPSS, perhaps there will come a day when we no longer need to imagine the audience in their underwear.

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