Thursday, May 26, 2011

Public Speaking

"There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars."—Mark Twain

According to the book of lists, the fear of speaking in public is #1—the fear of dying is only #7! Yet, in every English class, students are forced to stand up in front of their peers and make a presentation. What can you do to control those fears?

First, you need to know what you are talking about. If you don’t really understand what you are saying, you will be more nervous. Be prepared not only for your speech, but to answer questions about it. Also, use language that you normally use so that you won’t forget what to say.

If it’s available, use a projector with PowerPoint slides of your main ideas and visuals to support them. This can help you to get your message across, because the audience can see your points as you explain them. It also helps you to remember what your points are. Don’t write out your whole speech though; then nobody will need to listen to you. And don’t try to hide by speaking to your screen instead of your audience!

Practicing your speech is very important. Rehearse it out loud over and over again. If it’s a timed presentation, practice with a timer. If possible, try to practice in the actual location where you are going to speak and with any equipment you plan to use.

It’s a good idea not to rehearse on the day of your presentation, however. Try to do something else to help you relax instead. You can ease your stress by doing some stretching and some breathing exercises. Imagine yourself standing in front of your audience and speaking loudly, clearly and confidently.

When it’s time to speak, begin by addressing the audience and making eye contact with them. Remember that they are on your side—they want you to do well, too. They are hoping to hear something informative and interesting.

You will be nervous, but usually the audience can’t see that. They also don’t know what you are planning to say, so don’t apologize if your nervousness causes you to miss something—you’ll only be calling attention to it. Just go back and say what you had planned to say and move on. Nobody will know you made a mistake.

The more you speak in public, the more experienced you will become at controlling the butterflies in your stomach. Although the nervousness will never disappear completely, you will become a more confident speaker over time.