Do You Want to Be a Voice or an Echo?

This was the first week of classes at Georgia Southern University, and it is such a joy to be back in the classroom teaching public speaking. There is something about a new semester, with a clean slate and eager students, that makes it seem like anything is possible.

I always stary my classes with a question: “Do you want to be a voice in this world or do you want to be an echo?” Everything we do throughout the semester is aimed at helping students learn to find their voice and to use it in service of others.

This past week we talk about mindset, presence, feedback, and fears—all things that students can control, if they choose to.

We talked about the need for practice to get better at something. No one came into this world speaking, and if they expect to do well, they need to plan at least one hour of practice for every minute they will be speaking.

I told my students to expect butterflies in their stomachs. Even the most seasoned performers get butterflies, and if they don’t, their performances are usually lousy. The task is to expect and accept the butterflies and get them to fly in formation.

I asked them to frame how they are feeling before a speech in a more positive way. Rather than thinking they are nervous, they should think they are excited.

I told them that this is a special time and place in their lives to learn—and to use that opportunity wisely.

I told them to give themselves the gift of self-confidence through preparation, and when they are giving their speech, they should focus on what they are doing, not how well they are doing it.

I reminded them that no performance is ever perfect and that performance is temporary—it does not define who they are.

I always end my classes with this question, “Do you want to be a voice in this world, or do you want to be an echo?”

Anyone can be an echo, repeating what they hear, spreading gossip, and talking about others behind their backs. It takes a special person to be a voice.

And here’s the thing: We were all created to be a voice in this world. We were all created for a unique purpose.

The choice, I say, is up to them. Do you want to be a voice in this world, or do you want to be an echo?

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