Public Speaking Can Be Fun and Rewarding, Really!
Speaking in public is a serious fear for many people. It is considered to be one of the most common anxiety-provoking activities. While some with a severe phobia might need to seek out professional therapy or coaching, for many of us we can begin to reduce our fear, improve our skills and reap the benefits of better public speaking skills with some relatively simple techniques.
There are two things I do for which I consistently receive the most compliments. First is for the the sound of my voice on the telephone. I'm still trying to figure out a way in which I can monetize that talent and be able to share at family gatherings.
The second talent is public speaking. I am not the worlds greatest speaker, there is no danger of me being offered millions for a speech, public speaking is not how I earn a living nor did I ever go through some sort of special public speaking training. However, though I still get nervous and sometimes still resist opportunities to speak up, for the most part I enjoy public speaking and have taken advantage of a number of different ways to build my skills and confidence. I think that possibly the reason why I am often complimented on my public speaking skills is, in large part, simply that I don't convey fear. That is a big part of the battle right there. And, by being willing and comfortable with speaking in public, I gain many opportunities including building related skill sets, networking ability and establishing myself as knowledgeable in the topics on which I speak.
Public speaking confidence and talent can be built like a muscle. Regular exercise, even in small doses, will lead to increased strength. When I give speeches or moderate focus groups, I rehearse. I look in the mirror and read through my talk or questions. Looking in the mirror helps with practicing appropriate facial expressions rather than having a stunned, deer in the headlights look. Even the audience of one in the mirror is helpful. And reading aloud can help you catch where you might stumble over words, where you might be rambling or running on and where you might be able to express yourself more clearly. Speaking something clearly to a listening audience is not always the same as writing something clearly for an audience of readers.
Another option for practicing is to audio or video record yourself and evaluate the playback. If you are willing to put yourself out there a bit more in search of feedback you could post your recordings and solicit comments and constructive criticism. This can be valuable especially if you can solicit feedback from trusted sources and you are capable of hearing and receiving constructive critique and can separate out what is useful and what is not from other people's perspective.
In addition to forensics classes, participating in competitive debating and speaking events, and taking acting and theater classes in high school and college, one of the best tools in helping me feel comfortable speaking, especially without a script, was taking improvisational comedy classes. Though I was not gifted with a great comedic acting ability (some of my Groundlings classmates went on to star in Saturday Night Live, sitcoms and films whereas I was kindly and gently encouraged to take a different path), I learned much about being comfortable on stage, connecting with an audience and how to always be prepared to speak.
Another highly recommended tool for conquering public speaking fears and getting in muscle-building time is Toastmasters International. There are small clubs around the world where members help each other practice and grow their public speaking skills. I've not personally been a part of Toastmasters but I would imagine that the support and encouragement of a group of people with many of the same fears and goals can only be valuable.
Have you conquered public speaking fears or do you have an innate love for commanding the stage? What tips and tools have you found most useful in becoming a stronger public speaker? What benefits have come your way from stepping out in front of audiences big or small?
Lisa Braithwaite, public speaking coach: Speak Schmeak
Olivia Mitchell at Speaking about Presenting: How to get the most out of Toastmasters
Elizabeth at Queercents: Improve Public Speaking By Breaking Bad Habits
Public speaking is one of the most prevalent fears, so it’s easy to understand why people have a hard time with it but practice can go a long way towards making it easier. Media training, to an extent, can be done by yourself, especially if you have a computer with a webcam. It’s useful if your job relies heavily on public speaking, but if you’re just looking to improve your skills presenting to co-workers or have a fantastic interview, eliminating these idiosyncrasies goes a long way. And hey, no one’s perfect, I’m certainly not, but it’s a start.
Chefdruck Musings: Facing the Public Speaking Demon
I signed up for two public speaking opportunities this week. I'm not phobic about public speaking, but it's not something I do easily either.
Stacey Shipman at The WomensDISH: 5 Reasons to Use Public Speaking as a Business Growth Tool
Does the phrase “public speaking” make you cringe? Does your stomach get tied up in knots when you speak before a live audience? If you answered yes to either, you are not alone. Public speaking is often cited as the number one fear of adults. I learned early on in my business that developing my skills as a public speaker could set me apart from the rest of the pack. In any profession that is saturated with practitioners, public speaking offers a variety of opportunities to stand out from the crowd.
Elisa Camahort Page at Worker Bees Blog: Some very practical advice on public speaking
She has salient words of wisdom for before, during and after your speaking engagement.
I would only add one thing (and really it's just expanding on one of her points.)
Megan M. at Virtual Magpie: What? You want me to talk?
On Wednesday, I’m going to join… gulp… Toastmasters.
Yes. You heard that purposefully italicized note of anxiety.
Dawn Rasmussen at Pathfinder Writing and Career Services: Putting Your Résumé into Words: How To Verbally Pump Yourself Up In an Interview
Fast forward twenty years, and through progressively responsible experience in my employment lifetime, I have had to step up and provide sessions and leadership at conferences and workshops. This thrust my own public speaking into a suddenly new role. The pivotal moment was when I was on stage addressing 500 people at an awards banquet, and I realized that this was just about the same as a workshop. You have a message, and everyone is there to hear it. The interview is the same thing. You have a message about yourself, and the prospective employer is interested enough in you that they called you in for an interview to hear it.
Monica Sellecchia at The Temple News Online: Improv club explores risks, social possibilities
“Training is great and really helpful in a lot of ways,” said Scott McClennen, a junior film and media arts major and member of Fowl Play.
“It makes you learn to think on your feet, improves your public speaking and helps you to practice working on a team. You really gain the ability to listen and communicate effectively.”
You can see and hear BlogHer CE Maria Niles in public speaking action at her business blog, Fizz (from ConsumerPop).
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