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I flunked a debate

Public speaking is not my favorite activity, but I didn’t expect to do this badly!

Don’t worry, says our elder: Learn as much as you can from the experience and you’ll do better next time.

Dear EWC

At school we recently did a debate. I tend to get very nervous about public speaking and I’m not very good with people (it was a group project) so I knew I wasn’t going to be very good but I tried my best. We got the results back today and I did really badly. I expected that but I really tried my best this time. I said that I wasn’t upset but when I got home I started to get really mad at my group members (they weren’t prepared and I had to do most of the work but they weren’t that bad) and myself. I’ve been really sad all day and I’m not sure what to do.

Ketchman replies

Thank you for contacting us.
One of the benefits that a good school offers is the opportunity to try out new things, make the inevitable mistakes that usually happen when we do that, and learn from those mistakes — all within a safe, non threatening environment. Most people who have studied the way we learn would agree that one of the best ways to learn a new skill is to attempt it, have a few failures, and learn from those failures. Your less-than-stellar debate performance, looked at from that perspective, isn’t such a terrible thing if you take the time to analyze what went wrong, and figure out what’s needed to avoid those errors next time around.
It’s also important to keep in mind the fact that while it’s tough to lose at any kind of competitive activity, in this case your loss will have absolutely no adverse effect, whatsoever, on anything in your future. Years hence, if you look back on it at all, it will likely take on the stature of a non-event.

Reflect on it for a while and determine, specifically, where you and your team went wrong. Then try to imagine what you and your mates might do, if you could go back in time to a few days before the debate knowing then what you do now. That’s how you and your team will start to improve your performance. Public speaking isn’t an easy skill to perform. Surveys have shown that having to speak to a group is one of the foremost fears of much of the population, so don’t feel bad — you’re certainly not alone. On the other hand, it is a skill that can be learned; and learned well. Many of the worlds best public speakers started out terrified of getting up to a podium before an audience. Winston Churchill, one of the greatest English orators ever, started out with a serious stutter. Imagine the fear and discomfort he must have felt in the beginning.

I hope that helps. Use that debate as a learning tool and I think you’ll do fine.

Letter #: 451578
Category: School

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