This month, Lisa Braithwaite and I shared thoughts on public speaking. Lisa is a public speaking mentor and gives advice on better public speaking with her blog.
Something I've read about is the fear of public speaking and how that fear is a huge road block in professional development. Drop "fear of speaking" into your favorite search engine and look at how many results appear. Lisa and I talked about something that I have often wondered - What exactly is the "fear" of public speaking?
Lisa doesn't think that people are so much afraid of speaking as they are of being judged. We all want to fit in and when we step in front of a group of our peers, it means that we are suddenly on display. The "fear" of public speaking is simply pressure to be accepted by the audience.
"Another reason that people are afraid of speaking is that they don't prepare properly," says Braithwaite. A lot of speakers feel like thirty minutes to an hour before is adequate time to prepare. "They don't take enough time to develop it and then they don't practice it."
To Lisa, the lack of preparation is a cause for much of our "fear" of public speaking. Here are some tips, straight from Lisa, to better prepare for your presentation and improve your overall success.
Braithwaite says it's okay to script speeches, but make sure it's written in a casual tone. This improves the cadence, inflection, and likeability of the speech. As part of your preparation, read the speech out loud and make sure that you can read through it without having to stop and think about the words on the page. Any stumbles need to be rewritten or removed to make sure that part of the speech doesn't sound forced.
The problem with using technology like conference calls or webinars is that it gives the speaker something to hide behind. The movement to online meetings has freed up time and money, sure, but it's also perpetuated the idea that preparation begins thirty minutes before the meeting. "The truth is that some aspects of your presentation, you have to work harder at, because now it's all in your voice," Braithwaite advised.
It's vital to practice enunciation and maintaining a natural cadence throughout the call. Enunciation is important because on conference calls, all body language signals are lost and it can be a barrier in communication. Enunciation is also important because participants aren't able to see your lips moving, which can hinder their ability to understand what you're saying. A monotone voice will put participants to sleep. Lisa suggests that a great way to practice your inflection and speech pattern is to read a children's book out loud. "You can't read a children's book without acting it out," Braithwaite says. Consider the children's book Jack & the Beanstalk and try reading it without a deep voice when the giant says, "Fee Fi Fo Fum."
To prepare for presentations that will include web conferencing capabilities, be sure part of your preparation is to get familiar with the program. You'll want to be able to take advantage of extras like chatting with participants or getting feedback with a survey. While technology is a great way to cut costs and make it easier for people to meet, it's also harder to get and keep your audience's attention.
Here are some methods to keep your participants attention. Take a look at some of these blog posts and try them on your next conference.
As Braithwaite said, being afraid of speaking isn't so much "fear" as it is a lack of preparation that stresses us out and means we won't enjoy ourselves. Preparation goes much deeper than running over a couple of points right before it's go time.
Preparation is the number one tool in your arsenal against public speaking anxiety.
My thanks to Lisa for a great discussion about public speaking, preparation, and cats.
Sidenote: I proofread this newsletter by reading it out loud and found a lot of changes I could make.
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How to avoid meeting monotony, be a better speaker, and make your communication sing
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