In this article, Neitseizonuo Solo pursuing B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur discusses How a Law Student can Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking.
The fear of public speaking is an issue that many law students, as well as aspiring law students, struggle with it. In fact, the fear of public speaking is one of the most common fears that generally people experience. The feeling of dread and anxiety which overcomes a person as they approach a stage or even as they desperately try to fall asleep anticipating tomorrows public speech is something which we can all relate to.
Public Speaking: A Fear
Glossophobia, better known as speech anxiety, is the fear of public speaking which arises out of the fear of being evaluated negatively by a crowd and often leads to the inability to perform in front of people. There is a physical response to such a fear leading to increased heart rate, often times it also leads to sweating and deep anxiety.
Law requires a person to not only interact with clients and a variety of people but also to appear before the court and deliver arguments for their clients and it only means that a person has to persuasively and curtly deliver their arguments or speech. Public speaking is not to speak eloquently but who can put their point across efficiently and succinctly.
This very simple knowledge that public speaking is important in inculcating practice in order to overcome the fear of public speaking. To overcome does not mean to extinguish the fear but it means to do so in spite of the fear.
Public Speaking is not a Prerequisite of Law
Most aspiring students and present law students are often under the misconception that a lawyer has to be an expert orator, but this is not true. Most legal jobs do not need a lawyer to be good at public speaking and it is not required like in-house-counsels or corporate lawyers. Public speaking is mostly required in litigation where the lawyer has to present arguments in a court. Indeed, even the words an “expert orator” does not mean an eloquent and charismatic speaker but rather a speaker who can drive his point home briefly and with clarity. So it is unnecessary to let the fear of public speaking hold you back from becoming a lawyer as there are many other types of jobs available in the law which do not require a lawyer to address large amounts of people. Hence, fear of public speaking does not pose as an impediment for a successful law career.
How Law School Help Students Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking
Law school provides many opportunities to try public speaking on a small scale where students can practice for it in order to reduce their fears. Given below are a number of ways a law school student may do so:
Most colleges have a debating society. When you first enter the law school, one of the first activities you are introduced to is debating. Debating involves taking either side of a topic and arguing upon it. Debating allows students to interact with people from all batches. Presenting and defending your arguments in front of a small crowd and thinking under pressure are some of the characteristics of debating which help students to step out of their comfort zone and attempt to get comfortable with public speaking.
Mooting introduces to a student the idea that preparation is a key in public speaking. It requires the student to form reasonable and well-researched arguments before a bench, similar to a real court. Moot courts give invaluable experience to a student in both, understanding how a real court works and also, putting them in a situation where good oratory skills can be improved upon in relation to the courts.
Mooting usually involves a lot of preparation before the actual mooting occurs. Being well prepared for giving any sort of public commencement helps to reduce fear and nervousness that comes with the fear of public speaking.
Mooting provides the opportunity to students to understand how to handle pressure and answering questions like whether they are able to answer questions and how much preparation is needed for them to actually remember and answer questions under stressful and nerve-wracking situations. It acclimatizes students to a situation where they will be put on the spot in front of crowds and allows to realize their limits.
Vivas are part of the curriculum in law colleges. Before a viva in front of a teacher, students are often overcome with nervousness, which they must face and do well under the circumstances. This stands as good practice to get over the fear of public speaking.
Clubs and Societies
There are a number of different clubs and societies that are concerned with various activities and subject matters. Clubs like the poetry club where students are given the opportunity to stand before the other members and deliver their poem. It introduces to students to a substantial platform on which they may practice their orating skills and get them used to stand before a crowd.
Through non-profits like Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA) which have cells in a couple of colleges throughout the India, where students provide legal education to underprivileged children and it allows students to not only increase their public speaking experience but also give back to the society.
Often times, students are required to make presentations on certain topics and such presentations are a daunting task for students with a fear of public speaking. These presentations allow students to gain experience by standing before a group of people and presenting their topics. It also helps students to improve their oratory skills by giving them a chance to engage with an audience and to see what keeps a crowd engaged during a speech. Presentations basically improve your ability to express your ideas and opinions before the crowd by helping you understand what makes a good speech.
There are a variety of internships a law student can take up if they wish to do so. These internships often require a student to present topics which they work upon during the duration of their internship. Internships place students in a real working environment, thus, internship presentations are a good way to practice oratory skills in an environment outside of academic life.
Colleges hold conferences on a particular legal subject where students can take up the relevant topic and write a paper on it. If the paper is selected by the host college then they will appear before the judges who will judge the quality of their papers and subsequently, the best papers are chosen for publishing. Students get a chance to stand before a crowd of strangers and practice their oratory skills.
Model United Nations
MUNs are popular in all over the country and they are held at different institutions which are open to all colleges. In MUNs, students are allowed countries and committees that make up the United Nations where a singular motion is discussed by the members of the MUN. Students can voluntarily choose to speak for the country or the committee that they make up. Model United Nations provides plenty of opportunities for students to speak up and participate in discussions thereby providing a stage for students to overcome their fear of public speaking through practice in front of students from all over the country as well as the judges who preside over the discussions.
Some students are unable to take part in classroom discussions with fellow classmates. By raising your voice in the class and taking an active role in expressing your opinions will help to build up the confidence as well as habituating yourself to public speaking.
Simply put, Public speaking is an objective which requires time and effort before it can be perfected. This is not an impossible task and through the above-mentioned ways, students can improve and overcome their fear.
The debate is a very useful process for those who are afraid of public speaking (for people like me). Even if at first you are very nervous and confused about words, over time you still become more confident, learn to see the audience and feel the emotional energy in the room. I even practice speaking and reading better in public to perform better next time!
Also, internships at companies make you more confident. My first internship was in the early winter. On the first day, I was very silent and afraid to ask questions. But all the people were very kind to me, and gradually I became more confident. And even helped the current lawyer with the case. This is a great experience!
Good and useful article!
[…] Debating also helps a student in developing his rhetorics and analytical reasoning. Debating does not only makes one a good speaker but also teaches one to be patient and a good listener two of the most desired qualities of being a successful lawyer as it requires to listen to your opponent for rebuttals. […]