12 November 2011

Classroom Introductions Are Stupid

by Diane Carlisle

I've always heard that fear of public speaking is the number one fear for 90% of people, a higher percentage than that of those who fear death. Wow, that's something. But that in itself makes me the more curious about this phenomenon. Let's dissect the very simplest form of public speaking, the classroom introduction.

I hate it when the instructor tells the class about himself, or herself, and then asks each student, when it's their turn, to stand up and tell a little about themselves, starting with their name. UGH!! Again? I just did that in the last class! Why do professors require this sort of thing? Is this a teaching tool that they learn at University to get the classroom under control by elevating themselves and blathering on about their own background and why it is they came to be here before us today?

I'm thinking, "Good, I'm not in the front row this time, so I won't be going first. I'll get to hear what everyone else has to say and then I won't feel so bad after they all reveal how absolutely boring they are in their everyday lives." Of course, it never turns out that way. There's always the Director over some huge operation in the Gulf or a Naval Officer working on his Master's degree while taking a break from his annual hiking expedition.

So what can I say now? My nerves are in a bunch already, but now I have to reveal that I'm a software developer who loves to play online, roleplaying games as well as 1st person shooters, and I like to write about fictional characters who commit heinous crimes, including the dismemberment of a college professor who asked his students to introduce themselves.

I stand, take a deep breath, and clear my throat, "My name is Diane Carlisle and I'm a software developer." I sit down.

< crickets chirping >

You would think I just blurted out that I was an alcoholic. I take out my iPhone and make like I'm busy.

"That's interesting, Ms. Carlisle. Do you have any hobbies?" Ah, the ole you won't get away with that in my classroom tactic.

I look up. "No, I don't." Back to my iPhone.

"So, what do you expect to gain from this class?"

I want to say an "A" but decide that would be rude. See what public speaking does to people? That's not me at all. Why does this happen? Normally, I'm fine with talking in front of a group of people and being the center of attention when I have something which I care to share, like a software product I created. So why is an introduction of myself so off putting? Why do I feel so at odds when asked to tell a little about myself?

I don't like to blather on about who I am (at least not in a public forum such as a classroom) because I'm a rather humble person. Once I'm done with the class, it's time to move on. Nobody is going to care about what I do or who I am 8 weeks from now when this class is over, so why are we wasting time and energy going through it? I hate being redundant. Can't we just exchange business cards? Here, take one...my blog address is printed on there and I wrote a "little" about myself on a page labeled "About Me". Stop by and comment sometime.

So, are you ever anxious about public speaking? If so, why?

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