Chloe Nudo explores what you really look like when you’re doing an oral and why we sometimes have uncontrollable weird ticks, which stem from nerves.
So the classroom is quiet. The teacher is fiddling with some papers and you know that in the next five to fifteen minutes you are going to have to do an oral in front of your peers, and let’s just say, “you’re not down, ya know?” So the moment comes and we all handle it differently. Some panic, some fly through it, and some just flat out cry.
Even though the semester has just began, we still all have to do oral presentations, at least one for French and one for Physical Education, sometimes English teachers throw one in there for fun. Now there are two main rules for these presentations. The first is concerning the usage of notes versus memorization. The second is about the visual aids you’re going to have with you so people don’t fall asleep and will have something to look at. That’s one of the first things people judge when they listen to an oral: what are we looking at? If the teacher’s not the one talking then what else will keep us even remotely engaged besides something visual?
There are three different kinds of people who do orals. Those who are nervous and show it, those who are nervous but keep the cool outside, and those who aren’t nervous at all. Those of you able to mask the horror of the task ahead, or be cool enough to handle it, you’re lucky, but if not you might want to know what’s going on inside your body when on the outside you’re looking like a nervous wreck.
If you’re one of those people who get really nervous before orals, you probably have some sort of phobia. A phobia is a fear that is out of proportion to the danger, and the most common form of social phobia is public speaking anxiety.
The first thing is why do we feel so nervous? Why can’t we control it? Well the famous “flight or fight” formulation by Walter Cannon explains that, “when an organism [human] is faced with a threat [the oral presentation], instinctive bodily changes take place which prepare that organism for fighting or fleeing.”
Therefore, before and during your oral you’re experiencing quite a bit under the skin, and some of it shows up on the outside.
When asked about nerves before orals Caroline Ronalds, a fourth semester Professional Photography student responded, “French yeah, English no.”
The person who is giving their presentation is not always the one to mess things up, or make things weird. “I remember during the one second a person presenting their oral wasn’t talking, my Sweet Caroline ringtone went off,” said Ronalds, remembering awkward oral moments.
These uncoordinated moments sometimes liven up the classroom, especially during those brutal orals where the person is so monotonous that even if you wanted to learn you wouldn’t be able to because they hypnotize you to sleep.
“When you’re sitting and the lights are dim, it’s easy to fall asleep if the person is monotononous and has nothing visual to focus on,” Traci Silva, fourth semester North South student said. When people have things to focus on they can see what they are learning about and pay better attention as they can physically capture what they are learning.
For some people visual aids are a huge relief. Many people feel as though when they have something for people to look at it relieves the pressure on them.
“I fucking love orals, I’m not nervous at all, I’m never nervous for orals,” said Dahlia K, fourth semester Psychology student. Students who are comfortable pass that feeling onto the class and people are more likely to pay attention if a person is interested in what their talking about. Automatically a person becomes more passionate when the subject is one they want to learn about.
When you’re nervous and getting ready to do an oral, your heart beats fast, sweat starts to form everywhere and all sorts of weird ticks appear. These are the instincts we can’t control. On the outside, you can hear your heart beat faster and harder, that’s because the heart begins to pump more blood to your muscles to prepare to use them as if you were fighting someone.
Another blood-related outcome is the white face of someone who is scared hence the saying “white with fear.” This happens because blood vessels in certain parts of your body constrict which makes you look pale on the outside. This also makes your skin cold, which gives us those famous clammy hands.
Ever notice you also breathe deeper and quicker? This is because your body makes sure that you have enough air. In a more serious case of the nerves, you can end up breathing so deep and fast that you could begin to hyperventilate. The latter occurs in extreme situations of stress and anxiety and in worse case scenarios can cause fainting.
Something you probably weren’t worried about was your liver. Well, your liver also plays an important part in your public speaking habits, because of these reactions your liver secrets more glucose, which causes you to have more energy, and this is what usually causes people to be shaky, or have the jitters.
All your body’s vegetative functions, like the digestive system, are suspended so that blood can go from the stomach to the muscles. This causes people to have a loss of appetite before an oral, and they feel the need to pee because the body wants to rid itself of extras before it engages in the strenuous activity.
That feeling you get of a sudden dry mouth when you can’t speak and you feel as though you have to cough/breathe/swallow is due to a decrease in the flow of saliva consequent to the suspension of the flow of gastric juices in the stomach.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘I can do this, there’s nothing to be worried about, I know what I have to say,’ etc. But despite my self-talk I found myself panicking, my heart was racing and it seemed physically impossible to speak. I think I ended up crying in front of the class,” confessed a fourth semester Social Science student who wanted to remain anonymous.
Sometimes we have to lie, although, the truth is most of us have probably done it at least once in our lives… The old right click Copy, right click Paste. Often the reason for this desperate measure is because students have no idea what they are talking about and do not have the resources to fully understand and explain it to a class. Some oral topics are quite difficult and require time and patience, which most students don’t devote to it, which is why they might resort to cheating.
There is a dress code some teachers impose on their students, while other teachers don’t bother with the clothes. “You look professional when you’re really not,” Panos Marmaras, second semester Social Science student said relating to the fact that often students just memorize and regurgitate the information they are presenting while trying to look professional.
Whether you belong in the category of one of those super nervous people, the slightly nervous, or the cool one, remember that everybody has to do orals so if you do look stupid, you probably won’t be the only one. Embrace the stupid!