“Students of public speaking continually ask, “How can I overcome self-consciousness and the fear that paralyzes me before an audience?”
Did you ever notice in looking from a train window that some horses feed near the track and never even pause to look up at the thundering cars, while just ahead at the next railroad crossing a farmer’s wife will be nervously trying to quiet her scared horse as the train goes by? How would you cure a horse that is afraid of cars—graze him in a back-woods lot where he would never see steam-engines or automobiles, or drive or pasture him where he would frequently see the machines?
Apply horse-sense to ridding yourself of self-consciousness and fear: face an audience as frequently as you can, and you will soon stop shying. You can never attain freedom from stage-fright by reading a treatise. A book may give you excellent suggestions on how best to conduct yourself in the water, but sooner or later you must get wet, perhaps even strangle and be “half scared to death.” There are a great many “wetless” bathing suits worn at the seashore, but no one ever learns to swim in them. To plunge is the only way.”
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking
School is the ideal place for a student to get the opportunity to practice public speaking. No student should run from that opportunity, they all should embrace it, if they wish to get better at public speaking. Also, some time in your life you will have to give a presentation to a huge crowd. Make good use of your learning environment, this is the time you can make mistakes and not worry about it much. However, later on the mistakes would not be too pleasant. So, take them in strides, but don’t let them fuel your fears of public speaking.
Fear can feel quite tangible when you are in front a group of strangers. However, most of our fears are self-imposed. When you reapeatedly remind yourself of your weaknesses, you strengthen your fears and make the task more difficult. Now, you should instead tell yourself that the people in the audience want to know about the topic, it is up to you to really care about how you will disseminate that information. The last thing you should focus on is your fears. You can get better at public speaking, here are some public speaking tips.
Tips in Public Speaking
1. KNOW YOUR TOPIC!
Todd Stocker once said that “A speaker should approach his preparation not by what he wants to say, but by what he wants to learn.” You should also be prepared to answer some questions. So try to predict the questions and include them in your research. Learn as much as you can about the topic in advance of your speech, so you will feel comfortable discussing it with your audience. Don’t wait for last minute, your nervousness and lack of understanding will show. It is also a good idea to practice your speech in front of a mirror, family, or friends. Remember, “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” (Stephen Keague, The Little Red Handbook of Public Speaking and Presenting).
“He very soon acquired the reputation of being the best public speaker of his time. He had taken pains to master the art, approaching it with scientific precision. On the morning of a day on which he was giving a speech, he once told Wilkie Collins, he would take a long walk during which he would establish the various headings to be dealt with. Then, in his mind’s eye, he would arrange them as on a cart wheel, with himself as the hub and each heading a spoke. As he dealt with a subject, the relevant imaginary spoke would drop out. When there were no more spokes, the speech was at an end. Close observers of Dickens noticed that while he was speaking he would make a quick action of the finger at the end of each topic, as if he were knocking the spoke away.”
― Simon Callow, Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
2. BE SOCIAL.
Take time to greet your attendees before the speech or presentation. It will give you insight on their interest, plus familiarity with them will increase your confidence in what you can do and give them.
3. IMAGINE YOUR AUDIENCE.
Before you go out to deliver your speech find a quiet place to imagine the audience. In your mind imagine seeing their reaction to the introduction of your speech, imagine they leaning forward to hear every word, and imagine their smiles and nods.
However, while you deliver that speech remember these things; but please don’t imagine your audience naked or in their underwear. That can be quite intimidating (for the speaker), not to mention distracting. The purpose of this exercise is meant to encourage you to seek a connection with your audience while you speak. Anything that could create that barrier could make you look like you are not so confident in yourself and what you know. It also encourages you to look for positive signs in your audience while you deliver your speech.
4. WATCH YOUR BODY LANGUAGE.
Your body language can tell the audience much about yourself. Don’t for one second think that they would not know you are faking the smile, avoiding eye contact while you watch their forehead. Don’t fidget nervously, tap on the podium, or play with your hair. Look them straight in the eye, smile, nod, and use welcoming gestures. Your visual contact with them will tell you if they are understanding what you are saying.
5. AVOID THE AHS, UMS, AND LIKES.
A mouthful of ahs, ums and likes can make you look immature, amateurish, peevish, and even inexperienced. It leads the audience to think you are not sure of what you are saying. You lose creditability. Most times people are not aware of these ahs, ums and likes punctuating their sentences. It also pops up more when they are nervous. So, the next time you are speaking with someone, try to avoid the ahs, ums, and likes. A good strategy is to repeat the last sentence and allow a minute of silence to let the point hit home and you a chance to think of your next sentence.
6. ANIMATE YOUR SPEECH.
You can do this with a combination of gestures, body language, voice, pace and your personal energy and enthusiasm for the topic you are delivering. To be a powerful speaker you need to be mindful of the gestures you use so it does not distract from what you are saying. Your body language can be misinterpreted by your audience for a number of reasons, such as ethnicity, background, culture, etc. You must control your voice while you speak, so it does not annoy the listeners, or distracts from your message. And finally, you must deliver your speech with much enthusiasm and energy, so the audience could feel that they in turn should have that much energy and enthusiasm about the topic as well. You speech can be powerful!
These tips will help you deliver a powerful speech. There is no reason to fear public speaking once you consider these pointers. You will soon become a powerful public speaker.