How to Master the Art of Public Speaking
A majority of the people experience fear when they have to speak in front of a group or audience. What holds them back is the fear of appearing foolish in front of others. Preparation and the right attitude is the key to win over this process.
Some of the fears that top the list are fear of dying; fear of snakes, fear of height etc and fear of public speaking is also one of them. Many people experience faster heart beats and dry mouth when they are about to begin their speech. Some even experience nausea or giddiness. These symptoms aggravate once they start speaking. The heart beats frantically and the voice starts trembling. Their body, especially the legs begins to shake. Stuttering or increased rate of speech is also possible. In some case, people experience these symptoms only during the initial moments, later they calm down whereas; others may go through the ordeal for longer.
I remember my high school days, whenever we were asked to speak in front of the whole class, I would develop cold feet and I would start shaking and behaving in an unnatural manner. Then I found a way out. I realized that I could give a good presentation to the class only when I was sitting on a chair. But that didn’t help me because my teacher thought I was trying to act smart.
The primary reason that holds back people is their fear of looking foolish or dumb in front of their peers or others. They dread being laughed at. If they make a mistake or forget something, people may form a not-so-good opinion about them. This in turn affects their ego and confidence. If we follow some steps, we can definitely overcome fear.
- Preparation: The value of preparation should not be underestimated. Being prepared well in advance helps to avoid blunders. It is necessary to be aware of what you are going to speak and who will be your audience. Professionalism demands that nothing is left to chance. Work on your strategies, keep the material ready, pay attention to every minute detail, plan well in advance. Preparing in advance makes you feel confident and in control of yourself, thereby reducing the chances of foolish mistakes or failure. As far as the material is concerned knowing about your speech content doesn’t mean you learn it by heart, because that may make you sound scripted. Instead you should know the outline and the structure in which you are going to talk. Also not knowing about the type of audience can leave you embarrassed at the last minute. Therefore you should know your audience and accordingly you can customize your speech. Depending on the importance of the event you can prepare yourself and overcome the anxiety.
- Practice: It is said that knowledge is a treasure and practice is the key to it. Practicing the speech takes you nearer to perfection. There are various ways to practice. You can begin by practicing alone. Saying the speech loudly a number of times helps to get the material easily registered in your memory. Next you can do mirror practice. This exercise is very effective. You need to stand in front of a mirror and say the speech loudly, maintaining eye contact with yourself. This helps you to observe your body language as well. Then, you can also practice speaking by standing in a corner. This way you can listen to your sound reflecting back to you. Using a recorder is also a good way to practice. You can learn many things by observing your voice. You can record your voice and listen to it as many times as you want. You can learn many things by observing your voice. Finally you can practice in front of your friends. They can give you a feedback. Practicing before friends gives you a feel of talking in front of the real audience. The number of friends required for this practice is irrelevant. You can even begin with one friend.
- Back up plan: It is always advised to have a back up plan ready in case of emergency. The type of emergency I am talking of is, let’s say what if in spite of a lot of practice you can forget what you had to say or you go blank. Your back up plan can work as a safety net in such a scenario. What you can do is, you can note down the outline of your speech on some sheets or on small cards. These important points can be referred to very easily and the audience also would not mind. Only bear in mind that you shouldn’t sound scripted. When you have a back up plan ready you can rest assured that in case you happen to forget something, you have help at hand. This reduces your anxiety to a great extent.
- Knowing the audience: When it comes to the fear of your audience, remember it is all in the mind. The magnitude of your fear can get greater only if you allow it to be. The fact that you focus your thoughts on your audience as being very important can aggravate your fear and anxiety. Your audience can be truly important, for example your bosses, your colleagues, your important clients or even your friends and relatives but that should not inhibit you in any way. What you can do is you can shift your focus. Instead of fearing your audience and feeling intimidated you can look up to them. You need to visualize them as your friends and supporters. Remember, they are there because they want to listen to you and infact they want you to succeed. Visualize that they care for you. If your focus shifts from negative to positive, you will find the same shift in your body language and it will definitely be reciprocated by the audience.
- Relaxation: Relaxing yourself before your speech may sound a little difficult but you can follow a simple step and actually feel relaxed. Before starting your speech do remember to take a few deep breaths and then begin by thanking the person who introduced you. Then immediately start counting 1 to 10 in your mind and begin your speech. With each breath and count you feel relaxed. It also gives time to the audience to settle and get ready for you speech. This is also the moment when you are in front of your audience and you may panic. However, being prepared allow you to be confident & in control of the situation. It feels good to be in command and you definitely deserve it. If your work demands that you speak in front of small or large groups of people then you should practice speaking in order to enhance your skills and overcome the fears. Doing a Public speaking course is also a good idea and a proactive measure.
Piyush Bhatia - About the Author:
Hi I am Piyush Bhatia the Founder and CEO of BM English Speaking Institute Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India. Come and learn English with us. Along with English training we also, enhance people's confidence, public speaking, presentations, business English, grammar practice email drafting and group discussion skills.