A Fear Of Speaking In Public: Five Practical Ways To Overcome It
You’ve been asked to do some public speaking for the Gardening Club, or Mums & Toddlers and frankly, you’re terrified. In fact your fear of speaking in public is enough to make you want to hang up your trowel and green wellies forever. And as for mums and toddlers, well your two-year-old is going to have to grow up fast!
Consequently, you are not going to believe me when I tell you that public speaking, as a means of increasing your confidence, cannot be surpassed! It’s all a matter of knowing what to do and how to do it.
The issues that need to be addressed are:
- Public speaking ideas: knowing your subject and sorting it into a coherent talk.
- Preparing for, and giving, a visual presentation.
- Dress code – what to wear.
- Delivering your talk.
- Follow up.
- KNOWING YOUR SUBJECT AND SORTING IT INTO A COHERENT TALK
If you are a member of a Club and have been asked to address fellow-members, then chances are that you have been asked to speak on a topic near and dear to your heart. You will probably, thus, be free to choose a particular aspect of the subject with which you are familiar, or in which you have some expertise.
However, if you are to address the Mums’ & Toddlers’ Group (where membership is broader and lifestyles may be very different from one another) that may not be so. In that case, you will need to think about the issues that interest you – because the one thing you must try to do, as a speaker, is to inspire others with the passion you feel for your subject.
PUBLIC SPEAKING IDEAS
Your topic may fall into one of three categories:
- a) An item of common interest.
- b) Sharing a secret.
- c) An esoteric subject.
- a) A common interest would be one that defines the raison d’etre of the club. So for the Gardening Club, you might plan a talk which encompasses a widespread problem - experienced by all members - and offers some solutions. Let’s say you decide to speak on Ten Ways To Slug Pests, you could then outline the organic answers to the problem: the scattering of crumpled egg shells or coffee grounds (which are impossible for molluscs to negotiate); a beaker of beer dregs to drown snails; or spraying plants with a weak solution of detergent to deter whitefly or greenfly. What you’re aiming for is to provide facts and information which are of interest to all.
- b) Sharing a secret is not as difficult as it sounds. You may, for instance, have insider knowledge on the lifestory of a well-known personality, who happens to be a relative of yours. And though you may not wish to share intimate details, simply making the connection will be enough to interest most people. Perhaps, like the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, you may even be distantly descended from the British Royal family. Or perhaps, more mundanely, the secret you are willing to share with your audience, is in soap or candle-making. For we authors, of course, it is always about creative writing projects, how to craft a novel, or writing good dialogue.
- c) An esoteric subject, as its name implies, would be something obscure: some intriguing topic – perhaps previously unknown even to you. So, instead of bombarding your Mums’ & Toddlers’ Group with yet more information on how they are failing as parents, or how little Jonnie might be groomed to be the next Richard Branson, entrepreneur and adventurer, you could lift their spirits by telling them something completely and utterly outside their normal experience. Like, for instance, the fascinating fact of nature I came across recently on my Google news bar, which is about a lizard that is so small and light that when it leaps, it floats like a feather.
Which brings me to research. The World Wide Web makes this so easy! But be sure that your source is reliable. The very fact that it is so easy means that the internet is inundated with material which is unsubstantiated and unedited. Use the websites of real world sources, like the World Health Organisation, or top quality newspapers or broadcasters, to be sure of your facts.
WRITING A GOOD DIALOGUE
Writing for publication and writing for a talk are two entirely different things. Creative writing projects do, however, have one thing in common with a talk: both require you to think in terms of writing a good dialogue. Unless you are delivering a lecture which depends upon its own specific language (i.e. scientific, technical, medical or historical) the vocabulary and grammar you use for publication will be quite different to that for a talk. Think of your address as being a conversation with one person. And use the easy, informal expressions and structure that you would use when speaking to a friend.
As for how to structure your talk, here the same principle applies as for writing an article. That is:
- Tell your audience what you are going to tell them.
- Tell them.
- Tell them what you have told them.
More of this next time when we’ll look at other ways to deal with that fear of speaking in public.
An Interview with Tom Wright
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