Public Speaking: Conquering Stage Fright

Do you feel wobbly kneed at the thought of giving a speech in front of an audience? Does your heart skip a beat when you think of several pairs of eyes looking at you while you deliver a talk? Not to worry, here is help at hand with a few tips.

In today’s world one has to make presentations. Deliver an impromptu talk, give a vote of thanks, introduce someone to the audience and much more, and often without preparation. Mastering the art of public speaking can reap rich dividends in confidence, personality development and leadership skills.

Develop your communication skills:
A child begins to communicate at a very early stage in its life. As we grow older and go to school and college, it is imperative that we develop our communication skills. Since English is the major medium of communication internationally brush up your English grammar, vocabulary etc so that your words flow easily.

Keep it short and simple (KISS):
People rarely have the patience to listen to a long winded and detailed lecture, however good you may be. Keep your talk short and avoid bombastic language, outmoded words and idiomatic phrases. Don’t speak in long and complicated sentences, break them into short sentences so that the audience may understand and recall.

Prepare your material:
Never think that you will think on your feet and deliver an outstanding talk. Get your material together, whether on powerpoint slides or good old pen and paper. See that there is logic and sequence and an easy flow of thoughts. Do your homework well and research the topic.

Know your audience:
Before you speak, ask who the audience will be. If you are speaking to your peers, it may be easy. But if your Principal and teachers will be there, you may be conscious. If you are to speak to a group of strangers you may be even more worried. Also, the time at which your talk is scheduled is important. In the morning people are usually fresh and may listen with patience. Nearer lunch time they may be hungry and crabby and may fidget if your talk is long. After lunch sessions are also dangerous as people may snooze. If you are the last speaker of the day, you may find the audience getting ready to call it a day and not in a mood to listen to heavy stuff.

Stage management and mike management:
If you are to speak from an elevated stage, go early to the auditorium and see where the steps are. Also look out for wires and other obstacles. Make sure that the podium/lectern allows you to be seen; if you are short, request for a step platform. If you need to dim the lights for your power point presentation, find out where the switches are and request someone to dim the lights when you need. Test the mike and angle it properly before you speak so that there is no echo.

Modulate your voice:
Practice modulating your voice to give it depth and richness. People are rarely impressed by a flat tone of voice. Vary the pitch, volume, cadence, stress and rhythm and you will have people hanging on to every word.

Be well groomed:
Remember all eyes will be on you and the first impression is the last impression. Take care to dress and groom yourself well. Wear clean, fresh and ironed clothes, polished shoes and make sure your hair and nails are clean. If you are a girl avoid too many accessories and too much jewelry.

Eye contact and facial expression:
Make eye contact with your audience, never look at the floor or ceiling when you talk. Look confident and stand straight. Smile whenever possible. Your facial expression should be pleasant, avoid frowning, winking, shrugging or smirking. Look happy to be there and try to include the entire audience with your eyes and body language.

Gestures and body language:
Avoid unnecessary gestures like waving your hands, pacing up and down, jingling coins or keys in your pockets or constantly looking at your watch. Your body language should exude confidence and indicate that you are comfortable, not nervous. Pay attention also to the body language signals of the audience. If you feel they are getting bored or restless, tell a joke or relate a funny anecdote.

Don’t under estimate your audience:
With the internet and TV widely used, even small children are aware of many things. So never treat your audience with disdain. Don’t say “I am going to tell you something which you have never heard in your lives”. Instead, say, “I wanted to share a few things with you on this topic which I feel may be of interest to you”. Try to get their attention with a personal story or anecdote rather than repeating clichés and quotes.

Practice makes perfect:
There is no short cut to success. Even the greatest orators have spent hours practicing their speeches initially. Practice in front of a mirror or with family/friends. Time yourself so that you don’t have to be cut short midway. You can even record your speech and listen to it and improve your voice modulation, grammar etc.

Thus effective public speaking is an art. Though the road may be a bit bumpy, your perseverance will pay and soon you will find that you can effortlessly speak to an audience and get their appreciation. So get set and go.

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More by :  Dr. Anjana Maitra

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