The Ultimate Test of Public Speaking

The most trustworthy and non-judgmental audience I have ever had.
The most trustworthy and non-judgmental audience I have ever had.

Public speaking is one of human kind’s worst fears. More than spiders and heights. By senior year I thought I had mastered this skill, especially since I got a point off on my last major presentation for being ‘too relaxed.’ I was wrong; Iowa State wasn’t done testing me yet.

The lovely Catt Hall lit up at  night.
The lovely Catt Hall lit up at night.

Monday morning the email came. The one asking me to make the student commencement speech at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony. Simultaneously I was filled with pride whilst my stomach dropped to the floor. I am going to be recognized as an exemplary LAS student in front of all my peers, but also…I had to give a speech to thousands of people! Game on.

After about two days of mulling it over, meaning jumping from extreme pride to tremendous terror, I realized a couple things. One, I wasn’t getting graded! I know this sounds silly but how many times have we freaked about making sure we add in those transition statements and summarize main points in our conclusion? Second, this was a speech all my own. No assigned subjects, no points off for over or under shooting the time requirement, just me. That made me pretty excited.

Football games are favorite memories for many ISU students.
Football games are favorite memories for many ISU students.

But where to start? How do I summarize four years of our lives in a brief speech? As seniors we have experienced so much change on campus: a new basketball coach, football coach, Vice President, and even President Leath came into office our first year. We were launched into the 2012 election during freshman year, and are now getting a taste of it again this winter and spring. So much has been created too, from buildings on campus to entirely new majors. All this, in five minutes.

Prof. Erin Wilgenbusch gave me the advice, “write down every single idea that comes to you” which I have been, cheesy jokes and all, just to get a starting point. Dan Rice, an advisor at the College of LAS said, “Start off with an embarrassing or funny story to get the crowd laughing.” Well Dan, that’s easier said than done. Mostly because my library of embarrassing stories is quite the collection.

By now it’s been about three weeks and I am still in the process of writing this speech. Every few days I think of a new piece of gold-in my mind at least-that I want to add in, and I am starting to practice speaking to my always rapt audience consisting of stuffed animals (they never look away or seem distracted, it’s great).

As my time here at Iowa State is coming to an end, I think of memories I want to share as well as feelings I assume many other graduating seniors are experiencing as well. For now though, my main goal is to make my peers laugh, smile, and reflect on how great it was to be a Cyclone.