Freaking about Public Speaking?

If public speaking sounds as appealing as getting bitten by a rabid rat, you’re not alone. However, there are a number of tips you can implement to make the seemingly torturous task somewhat sufferable.

Here are a few tips to prevent public squeaking (or shrieking, for that matter):

  1. Model from the masters. Who are your favorite speakers? What are their habits and styles? What kind of words and gestures to the use? Analyze what makes the speakers so attractive, and see if there are any of their traits that you can incorporate into your presentation.
  2. Go for a test drive. Try to check out the room, where you will be speaking in advance. If you are going to be using a microphone, see if you can test the sound system. The more accustomed you are to the room, the more comfortable you will be on the day of your speech.
  3. Know your material backwards and forwards. Knowing and understanding your material is critical for successful presentation. Winging it can oftentimes result in painfully embarrassing outcomes. The more familiar you are with your topic, the more comfortable you will be in your delivery.
  4. Practice until your roommate can’t take it anymore. Although it sounds kind of obvious, it’s so important and needs to be stated. Practice in front of anything. Practice in front of a mirror, practice in front of a cactus. Practice in front of people (maybe other than your roommate). And then do it again.
  5. Visualize yourself as victorious. When we get stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, our pessimistic thoughts usually result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, when you are prepared and positive, you’re likelihood for success is greatly enhanced. In your mind’s eye, see yourself speaking confidently, clearly, and with enthusiasm. See yourself being well received by an admiring audience…and it will likely be so.
  6. Managing eye contact. How many times have we been told by our mothers to make good eye contact when addressing people? If you want to actually make eye contact, scan the room smoothly and keep eye contact with individuals only for 3 to 5 seconds each. If you want to fake eye contact, look at the tops of audience members’ heads while you’re speaking. Whether the eye contact be real or fake, ultimately it will provide you with a better connection to your audience.
  7. G-O S-L-O-W. Nothing says nervous-speech-giver like a lightning speed delivery. Be deliberate in your pacing. The slower you speak, the more relaxed you will feel.
  8. B-R-E-A-T-H-E. There is no better way to tame your tension than to do some deep breathing exercises before your speech begins. Try breathing as deeply as you can into your abdominal area. Try not to raise your chest as you inhale. Then exhale completely. Repeat. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing and it ultimately short-circuits the stress response. Even during your speech, try to breathe diaphragmatically. Not only will it help control your nerves, it will also help your voice project better.



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