You Are in Control: Never Fear Public Speaking Again

by on December 6th, 2012
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It’s time to make your speech. You enter a roomful of people staring you down. You dizzily stumble to the dais; your hands cold and clammy. You are sweating, your mouth is dry; your heart pounding and your face and ears get as hot and red as if you had just eaten a habaƱero pepper. When you begin to speak, it sounds like you have a case of the croup; the words start to pipeline and crowd in your throat. Surely, everyone in the room is surveying and inspecting you like a used car. You can’t look at anyone; the audience seems to have melted into one ominous being.

But wait- there is hope for you! I was exactly like you at one time and dreaded public speaking- I experienced enough dread to actually play sick each and every time I had to speak in front of an audience.

It wasn’t until around 1997, when I took a mandatory public speaking course in college, that I developed and honed my undiscovered skills as a speaker. I used these skills to perform successful speaking venues to countless roomfuls of police cadets as a police instructor. Like anything else, public speaking is developed through practice. One cannot deny that good public speaking skills also provide a tremendous boost of self-confidence in other facets of one’s life. I now offer you some tips that I developed that will surely help you overcome your fear of speaking in public and gain mastery and control over your audience:

If possible, meet and greet your audience before you speak. You will be amazed how much more relaxed you will be if you have already sized up your audience. This also gives your audience a chance to become acquainted with you. This point might prove to be the most controversial, yet effective tip that I can offer. I have discovered that if you somehow believe that you have done something that no one in your audience has ever done, and let them know it, and better yet, show them, then that alone gives you confidence during your speech. In my case, as a part-time actor, I always begin my PowerPoint presentations with slides showing me in various scenes from television shows in which I have acted. Believe me, you will really connect with your audience and you will gain their respect and admiration. Show-and-Tell had it right- Always bring actual items with you to your speech that interest you and might interest your audience, even if the item is unrelated to your speech. The use of props is good for confidence in speaking, as you will not have to be on stage alone. Before one presentation several years ago, I went to the Harris County property room and unsuccessfully tried to check out the actual axe Carla Faye Tucker used in her 1983 murder spree. Now that would have been a memorable speech! (hey, I tried!) Don’t be afraid to look at individual people in your audience. Nothing screams “scared” more than a speaker who uses the podium as a security blanket. I always grab the microphone and walk among my audience, sometimes going so far as to walk right up to a single member, as if I am speaking to only that person. (turn the tables on your audience and scare them!)

These tips will surely help you overcome your fear of public speaking. Don’t be afraid to pull out all the stops. Your goal is to give your audience an interesting and informative talk and at the same time, to provide yourself a mechanism to relax. Using these tips, I wouldn’t be surprised if you actually started looking forward to your next speech!

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