Delma learns to speak in public

Delma woke up with a start. "Oh! Did I oversleep!" she exclaimed to herself.

She quickly bathed herself and gobbled down a hasty breakfast.

"It's my presentation in school today and I can't afford to be late," she mumbled to herself as she swiftly swam towards Aquatic School.

She made it just as morning assembly was about to start.

"Oh! Thank goodness you are here," said Sally the salmon who was her partner in the presentation. "You were supposed to be early so that we could practice our speeches before class," she muttered to her.

"I am sorry," apologized Delma profusely. "I slept late because I was so tense about our presentation. Finally, when I fell asleep it was nearly daybreak and I got late."

"Okay, okay," said Sally the salmon in her no-nonsense way. "Our presentation is in the first lesson and its Asin the Alligator's subject. He will not tolerate any tardiness or inefficiency."

"Yes, yes I know. All will be well. I have tried to memorize all my points. It will be fine," said Delma trying to sound confident but her heart was thumping frantically.

When the Science lesson started, Delma tried to concentrate on the other presentations taking place. Everyone of her classmates was doing a good job. Some of whom who had forgotten their speeches were being laughed at.

"I hope I don't forget my speech," thought Delma to herself with a shudder.

Suddenly, before she could compose her thoughts Asin the Alligator, their Science teacher said in his stern, husky voice, "Delma and Sally with their presentation on the water cycle."

Sally started their carefully penned speech. Her voice was confident and everyone seemed to be listening in rapt attention. Then Sally said, "Now my friend and partner, Delma will continue with the second part of our presentation."

Delma swam upto the head of the class. She looked at the sea of eyes before her. She tried to remember the first line of her speech but her mind was completely blank. She tried to say something...anything but nothing would come out of her mouth. She swallowed while the rest of her class looked at her in anticipation. Suddenly she heard a snicker.

"Someone's laughing at me," the thought raced through her mind and seemed to paralyze her. Sally the salmon was giving her pleading looks while Asin the Alligator seemed to be losing his patience. Suddenly, the bell signaling the end of the lesson rang.

"Okay class, we will continue this presentation after the weekend when we come back on Monday," said Asin the Alligator, "And Delma I hope you will be better prepared then."

Sally the salmon confronted Delma, "What happened to you? I thought you had learned your part of the speech?" she hissed.

"I...I don't know what happened," whispered Delma, "I just couldn't speak in front of all those creatures."

"Well, you'd better get over your fear of public speaking soon," said Sally candidly, “Because both our grades are going to suffer if you don't. You have the weekend to practice hard." And with those words she swam away in a huff.

The rest of the school day passed in a blur for Delma. All she could think about was the embarrassment she had faced in front of her class.

"How will I be able to face them? How will I give my presentation? Whatever will I do?" these thoughts plagued her till she returned home that afternoon. That evening when her best friends Din Din and Dazel came to play with her at the lake's edge, they found the dolphin in a somber mood.

"Whatever's the matter?" asked Dazel anxiously. Delma unburdened herself to her friends.

"What will I do on Monday morning?" she finally asked them in agitation.

"Don't worry, Delma. We will help you practice. I love public speaking," said Dazel.

"I can give you a few tips to help you."

"Really, Dazel?' said Delma doubtfully.

"I don't have your confidence and I can't develop that overnight."

"We will start early tomorrow morning," said Dazel ignoring Delma's pessimistic comments.

"And I will be here for moral support," added Din Din encouragingly.

The next morning Delma's two friends arrived at the lake bright and early as promised. They asked Delma to recite her speech.

"What you have to remember is that your speech must be researched and memorized properly. Thoroughly researching the speech will help you feel more confident and less anxious when you face the audience," began Dazel in her animated way. "We must help you rehearse at least 10 times before you face your audience," added Din Din. "The feedback we give you will help you improve. You can reduce your anxiety by practicing deep breathing or visualizing yourself giving a successful speech."

"Yes, that's right! Now, once you are confident that you know your content, stand confidently before the class and smile before you begin. Don't let your nervousness show," the duck continued.

"The other thing to remember is that you must try to find one friendly face in the audience and tune out the rest. It is best to make eye contact with everyone but because it is your first time speaking before a large group, you can also keep your eyes on a distant spot in the room and gradually begin making eye contact when you feel more comfortable," continued Dazel as Delma listened intently.

"Making placards about your key points will help too," quipped in Din Din.

"Just focus and you will get the job done," said Dazel.

The rest of the day passed in Delma rehearsing before her friends. They followed the same routine on Sunday. By Sunday night Delma felt she would be able to give her speech in her sleep. She was so exhausted by her efforts that she fell asleep immediately.

On Monday morning, Delma was in school well before time. She did not let anyone distract her and when the Science lesson began, she went up to the front of the class with a determined expression on her face and her placards. She took a deep breath, smiled and tuned out everyone and fixed her eye on a row of seaweeds at the back of the class and began her speech.

The words flowed out because she knew them so well. As she spoke and saw the attention of her audience, she became calmer and finally came to the end of her presentation. Applause filled her ears.

“Well done, Delma!” said Asin approvingly. Delma smiled brightly and felt as if she had succeeding in scaling a huge mountain.

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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