Even though many people routinely give speeches or presentations for work or school, they may still experience fear at the idea of having to stand in front of others and talk. Some speakers can become debilitated by thoughts of what to say, how to keep the audience's interest and how to calm nerves. Much of the anxiety associated with public speaking can be minimized, however, if you pay attention to overcoming the most common problems of public speaking.
Lack of Confidence
If you don't have confidence in yourself, you'll risk alienating the audience. Being obviously nervous is especially problematic because "when we are nervous, listeners are more likely to focus on negative vocal and visual cues," says author Cheryl Hamilton in "Essentials of Public Speaking." Allowing time to prepare and practice beforehand helps speakers gain the sense of control necessary for the audience to trust and believe the message.
Lack of Attention to Audience
Make sure you know the audience, or the presentation will be unsuccessful. Researching their ages, culture, values and current level of knowledge is essential to shaping the speech's tone and content. Failing to relate the material to the audience, to maintain eye contact and to read their expressions can negatively affect how your speech will be interpreted. Explaining how the material benefits listeners personally and using anecdotes attracts the audience's attention.
Lack of Organization
You can lose credibility by not spending enough time gathering and organizing material. Conducting research about the audience, topic and sources are preliminary steps. Arrange the information into an attention-getting introduction, craft a paragraph for each of the three most important points, follow them with a conclusion. Attempting to speak on the fly invites disaster. It's standard practice to create an outline or put information on note cards to refer to as you speak. This method helps both the speaker and audience stay on track.
Lack of Preparedness
Practice the speech in full before delivery. Saying the words helps speakers hear: where they are rushing words; where to improve word flow and voice intonation; and how to project enthusiasm. Using technology or other visuals beforehand makes it possible to catch glitches that could otherwise disrupt the actual speaking event. Rehearsal also improves familiarity with the material, enabling speakers to field questions and maintain credibility.
Lack of Time Management
Run through the speech to ensure it meets time requirements. Many speakers run overtime because they have not adequately rehearsed and timed the delivery of their material. "If you are speaking for 10 minutes, rehearse for about eight," advise Ronald Adler and Jeanne Elmhorst in their book "Communication at Work: Principles and Practices for Business and Professions."
- "Essentials of Public Speaking"; Cheryl Hamilton; 2001
- "Communication at Work: Principles and Practices for Business and Professions"; Ronald Adler and Jeanne Elmhorst; 2003
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