Monday, May 4, 2009

End your fear of public speaking – part 1

I had quite a bit of interest in my blogpost "The imaginary fear of public speaking" where I addressed the subject in a general way.I would now like to start a series that covers some practical solutions to this all too common concern.


One of the greatest fears that people have regarding speaking in public is forgetting what they are going to say. To be standing up in front of a group of people and not having a clue what the next word, the next sentence, the next idea, is supposed to be. Just standing there silent and frozen …… nobody wants that. The standard method people have to deal with this is to write their script and then try desperately to remember it word for word. This process is often a real trial and made all the more difficult by not considering certain aspects of the way that the speech has been put together. There a few simple strategies that will help you produce a speech that is easier to remember and truer to your own personality and views.


There are two sources of knowledge that you can draw on to ensure that you are never lost in the middle of a speech: knowledge of the material and knowledge of the script.

While I can’t teach you how to improve the knowledge of your material I can point out that understanding the nature of your knowledge of the material will help you with the process of writing and delivery. The first step of this process is all about defining your connection with the material. Some people are fortunate enough to speak about subjects that feel truly passionate about, but not all of us are that lucky. Quite often we find ourselves speaking about dry subjects that we are sick of hearing about ourselves. To a certain degree it’s unavoidable, but you can make the best of a bad situation.


Start of by clearly defining the exact information that must be put across and the exact message(s) that this information is intended to convey. Strip it down to the essentials and if you are still information heavy, consider transferring some of the details to powerpoint or printed material that your audience has at their table. Once this is done you should then think about the connection(s) that you have with the material at hand.


a)      Is there an underlying idea or concept behind the information that you can point out, sum up or even attach a catchphrase to? If so, write it down and then harness that potential in your speech. Repetition of main points and the use of monikers and catch-phrases make material more memorable to both you and your audience.


b)      Are there aspects of it that you feel more strongly about? Even the driest subjects usually involve some emotional content, even if it is just feeling passionate about an idea or technology involved. Some people communicate very well by drawing on their emotional attachments to a subject, if you feel you are one of those people then summarize your emotional attachment to the material and bear it in mind while you are writing your presentation.



c)       Have you had experiences that relate to the ideas and subjects at hand? If so, consider using them. People have a natural tendency to organize a speech with a purely logical framework: get the information/ideas – explain them logically to the audience. The problem with this is, that not all people communicate most effectively in a logical framework. Some people relate things well through experience which can involve telling stories, or referring to characters. When relating stories, make sure to be careful to stay very close to the point you are trying to make – is it relevant or is it gone – but consider the use of stories/experiences. Think about whether you like relate to things through stories when talking to friends, if you do, then consider how to use this in your presentations. Define your strengths and work with them.


These is just a rough outline of a few beginning steps – I will be back with more on the blog soon, and I am always more than happy to work with individuals or groups in greater detail – stay in touch and …. thanks!



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