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?


  1. I love, love, LOVE public speaking. Put me in a room with a mess of people I don't know and make me talk to them one-on-one and I'm a mess, though.

  2. I'm somewhat like you, Chris. I can surely do a presentation on something I built, probably because I have a prop to take the focus off me. The minute the focus is on me, I just want to shut down! lol

  3. Great funny post Diane. I had a teacher who told me I was at B level on the second day of class because I didn't participate. It's actually a long funny story and since I got some extra credit later I got my A in the end.

  4. Thanks, Desert. But now I want to hear the rest of YOUR story! You should blog about it. :D

  5. I used to hate it until I had to give a series of presentations on something I was passionate about. Then I realized everyone had to sit down shut up and listen to me, so my closet narcissist was satisfied.

  6. I've been called a closeted narcissist before, Nancy. :D Why do writer's get such a bad rap!

  7. I am absolutely terrified of speaking in public. So, while it's been awhile since I've been in school, I can remember how scared I would be before it was my turn to introduce myself. I am SO grateful for the internet, blogs, and computers in general. Now I get to say what's in my heart and not have my heart race because of it. :)

  8. LIKE!! Jodi.

    I'm with you, so thankful we have the internet. Technology has made so many doors open for the writer. Keep writing!

  9. I view public speaking differently from the classroom introduction. Public speaking can be used to inform or entertain and usually the people there to listen want to hear what you have to say.

    However, the classroom introduction is just a invasion of privacy that no one really cares about. I think teachers do it so they don't have to teach the whole time...;)

  10. That's what my husband said! He used to teach as an adjunct instructor and he said the first day of class, if he's not really prepared, he'll use that "introduce yourself" tactic as an excuse to shorten the teaching time. lol

  11. If I were ever in that situation again, and thank god, that's not likely to happen at my age, I'd probably say something like "My name is XX XX and my life is my own business." And that's if I were in a very good mood. Otherwise, it might not be so polite.

  12. I think most of us have trouble talking about ourselves. I know as I writer, I had to recently write a bio about myself and it was so difficult.
    Oscar winning actors we admire for their talent, go on talk shows and freeze up. They don't want to talk about themselves. Some decide to be funny and keep you laughing through the interview which if it is funny is very entertaining, but they were "on" and it revealed nothing about themselves.
    Maybe the more you do it the easier it gets. I recently did a reading/signing for my debut novel, and decided to enjoy it and have fun. I talked a little about me and answered their questions. It was weird but I got through it.
    I think we all have this idea that our lives aren't interesting enough for people to want to hear about LOL.

  13. Catana and June, thanks for stopping by. I think going back to actors, it seems very true for artists in general to feel weird in talking about themselves. It's almost like if we talk about ourselves, it sort of takes away from our art. I'm like, "Wait, me? But what about my book?" LOL

  14. That was hilarious! I saw your blog post in your comment on Momentum Gathering and it caught my eye as an education consultant. Your post is so true and something I've never seen talked about which is so rare in itself! You hate it and it is wrong b/c it's so forced on the participants. It immediately does not create an atmosphere of emotional safety and actually makes learning difficult (at least that day!) because fear causes the blood to drain from the brain and you won't remember anything said that day. People do things like that usually b/c of tradition-sake as if it's a great way to connect, but it's not. Better to feed the people appetizers and chat for 20 min. before getting started in my opinion!

  15. So it's like a dangled carrot on the first day, and the instructor gets to choose the star students who chomp? I hate that!!!

    Artists are not to be treated that way!! :(

    Artists don't respond to that sort of thing. We want hospitality first. There's nothing to boast about! We just want to share our creations. :)

  16. I wish I could "like" your comment, Krista!


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