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Public Speaking Know How
Public Speaking Know How
Recalling the scene from the ‘Pants Alternative’ episode on The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon wins the Chancellor’s Award for Science and is asked by Chancellor Morton to give a speech. Sheldon has spoken in small groups but not groups large enough to stampede him. He needs to overcome his fear of public speaking, and the gang is all up for helping him deal with his anxieties.
Penny suggests a new suit to ‘dress for success’, Leonard tries to psychoanalyze his fears, Raj performs a meditation exercise, Howard pretends to care, all nice tries, but nothing seems to work.
While at the banquet, Sheldon is very nervous and Penny suggests he drink a glass of wine, and then another, and another, all in an effort to loosen him up. The liquid confidence gives a whole new meaning to imagining the audience in their underwear but this time the speaker is without pants.
Neither alcohol nor imagining the audience in their underwear helps much when trying to overcome the fear of public speaking. Some have been told to avoid eye contact with the audience, ‘just look over their heads’ they say, ‘the audience won’t know the difference,’ says another. This little trick doesn’t help either.
The best way to overcome anxiety as a public speaker is to get experience. It’s probably a solution many have heard before. Just the idea of having to get up in front of people time and time again in order to overcome speaker anxiety is mortifying.
When in college, most students are required to take a public speaking class. Advisors encourage students to ‘get it over with...go ahead and take the class so it’s out of the way.’ Remembering the years as a freshman in college and being told to ‘get it over with’ sounded like telling the parents you wrecked the car.
Public Speaking class is one of those opportunities to get experience in front of a large group of people. Unfortunately, the number of times a person will engage in an ‘actual speaking experience’ won’t get the job done. It takes months and months of practice to overcome the fear of speaking in front of an audience. The question is, what to do in the short-term.
The best advice that should be offered to any public speaking student, business professional or reluctant speaker (person with an incredible story to tell) is to talk about what you know.
If asked to get up in front of a group to speak as a student, professional, or reluctant speaker, think about what’s available ‘in the wheelhouse of experience.’ As a student, credibility will need to be established through extra research, practice and polishing the delivery but as a professional or someone with first-hand knowledge on a topic, there’s a certain amount of credibility already established with the audience (pre-speech or initial credibility) without a word being said.
If the speaker concentrates on what they know, the anxieties should already feel less invasive. All the negative talk and self-doubt will begin to dissipate and confidence levels will rise.
The speaker is having a conversation with the audience on information that’s familiar and easy. There’s no trying to impress the audience with a verbose vocabulary or using clever metaphors, it’s painting a picture of your experiences with familiar details. The more you narrow down the topic, be specific, and share personal stories, the more the audience will engage. Choose any subject and break it down into chewable pieces with splashes of color and good ole fashioned storytelling.
There’s nothing extra special required of the speaker. No tricks or hypothetical stories. Try to give the audience your best. Don’t be afraid to look them directly in the eye. Find the friendly faces in the crowd and focus on them. Granted, scan the room but find those with eyes on you, the speaker. There’s no greater feeling as a public speaker to make good eye contact with the audience and know your topic matters to them as well as to you.
Definitely avoid alcohol while giving a speech. It seems like a no-brainer to discuss leaving the booze until after the speech is completed but there will always be those Penny’s. Those that are trying to be helpful but fail miserably. Alcohol is a depressant to the Central Nervous System (CNS). The first drink may feel like a ‘pick-me-up’ but continued drinking will slow everything down from altered speech, brain fog, dulled hearing, weakened muscles, all negative effects for the effective public speaker.
Though Sheldon Cooper got the nerve to head to the podium and give his acceptance speech, the next morning he woke up without his pants and shamefully aware of the YouTube video streaming around the world of his ‘dark side of the moon’ show and tell.