Sarah's defense

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at
Sun Dec 1 02:43:14 EST 1996

In article <a-schmi-2611961938390001 at>,
a-schmi at (aloisia schmid) wrote:

>     The morning of my own defense, I drank two glasses of wine, just to be
> able to calm down enough to be able to hold the pointer.  And it didn't
> even make a DENT in my anxiety!  

I just wanted to add my $0.02 as a former sufferer of debilitating nerves
and public-speaking anxiety.  I was REALLY bad:  monotone, soft quavery
voice, eyes glued to copious notes, fidgeting-with-the-pointer mannerisms,
cold sweat, pounding heart.  In fact, I've never met anyone who is as
nervous as I was about public speaking when I started grad school, or at
least whose speaking quality it affects as much as it did mine (other
people would claim to be nervous, but it would never show.  On me, it
showed . . . ).

Two factors helped:  my PhD advisor, who gave me concrete, constructive
criticism, and practice. 

After I defended my thesis, I gave my thesis talk 4 additional times to 4
additional audiences, 2 of those in Europe.  I didn't use notes.  I
remembered thinking, somewhere during the third giving of it, "if my
younger self could see me now . . . "  I felt empowered.  

I would recommend giving yourself as much speaking practice as you
possibly can, before, during, and after the defense.  One way is to visit
other departments where friends are, and talk about your work to their
labs in informal settings (this was how I ended up talking to European
audiences).  Another way is to join a speaking club like "Toastmasters."

The "Toastmasters" format can be a little uncomfortable at first, but
there are clubs in almost every city, and you get as much practice and
feedback on public speaking as you can stand.  In the long run, it's much
more effective than wine, even for the industrial strength anxiety that I
suffered from.  

Congratulations on overcoming the anxiety, though, by whatever means, and
getting your degree!


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