More Thoughts on Public Speaking

By Sarosh Parvez

During the first quarter of this school year, I took a class in Public Speaking and Debate. I’d figured that I needed a bit more practice in speaking in general. Every time my parents invite their friends over, I just look down and shake their hands like the most socially awkward kid. Now you see, I’m a huge extrovert…only with my friends and parents. The thing is when I meet someone I don’t know, or if I haven’t seen that person in a while, I just freak out in my head and say the stupidest things. It’s kinda like what I do when I talk in school; I literally make the dumbest and most awkward jokes, and that only got worse during the pandemic. Okay, so maybe I needed A LOT more practice with speaking, but hey, I presented a PowerPoint in front of people at George Mason back in middle school, along with some other students, there’s no way I could mess up in this class. Boy, was I wrong. 

In class, I had to do Flipgrid assignments. In these assignments, I had to look at some questions from my teacher, record a video answering the questions, and send it to my teacher. Man, I had to make SO many attempts to do well in these assignments. Sometimes, I’d mess up in answering the questions, other times I would mess up points that I tried making. The worst part is that I kept stuttering, using “um” and “uh” over and over again, making it virtually impossible for me to get the “Public Speaking” part of that class down. I’d always seem to mess up with my communication for pretty much EVERY Flipgrid assignment I did. How do normal people manage not to say “um” and “uh” every five seconds? – It really surprises me. 

For the “Debate” part of this class, I, along with two other students in the class, had to prepare for a debate against another team about a certain topic. One team has to debate for the Proposition (in assertion towards the topic), with the other team debating against the topic, or debating for the Opposition. But you had to prepare for both sides of the topic because you get the side that you actually debate for on the day of the debate through a coin toss. The thing is, the topic was “video games cause violence” with the Opposition being that “video games don’t cause violence.” Now, this topic did seem pretty intriguing to me, because I wanted to know if they actually caused violence or not. But, there’s a really small problem with debating this topic. There is no genuine evidence that video games cause violence. After researching a whole lot, most articles about that topic showed that there wasn’t any correlation between video games and violence. So, if you really think about it, this debate would be absolutely one-sided no matter which team got the Opposition side since the only way to rebut would be to say that there was a correlation between video games and violence. I thought I had found some good research that it did, after scrolling through Google Chrome for 5 hours. The evidence I had for the Proposition was like finding Pizza at a Popeyes. But, after the debate happened, I proved myself to be totally wrong, once again. 

By the time the debate rolled around, I believed that my team and I were completely prepared to win, no matter what side we got. For some reason, I was chosen to be the team leader for my team. I had felt from my position that I could win something as a leader, rather than as a subordinate. And as you can imagine, we got the Proposition, while the other team got the opposition. I was the first person to speak, and while I did manage to make most of my important points, I still stuttered. But then, everything went completely 180°. It turned out that some of the data that my team had for video games causing violence were proven to be false. I couldn’t think about any rebuttals or anything I could say after that. So yeah, the other team won. Like I said before, the fact that there’s no significant evidence that video games cause violence makes the debate generally one-sided.  

Well, this seems too self-deprecating, so I’ll list some positives. I learned a lot about how a debate works. A debate is not only run by the debaters, there are other roles that civilize the debate itself, like a moderator and a timer. In this case, those roles were filled by the remainder of my class. I took the role of a moderator during a separate debate about social media, someone who is essentially the “referee” of the debate. Since my class was doing these debates by Zoom, I could mute and disable the cameras of other students. I didn’t really need to do much, because the debaters were being as civil as possible. I also learned about how to be a team leader, and about being considerate to people that you work with. It honestly was a great feeling to be a leader, and I’d like to be a leader in something again. Even though I never got over my stuttering problem and some things went south, I learned from what I did wrong while being proud of myself over the things I had done well.

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