If you were to take an informal poll, chances are good that the majority of individuals would say they don’t enjoy public speaking. Some will admit to a fear of public speaking and some will say they avoid public speaking.
Do you see yourself in one of these categories? If so, the dread of speaking in front of a crowd is one that millions of Americans share.
Take Aaron Beverly, for example. In 2009 he was a college student awestruck by the public speeches of then-President Barack Obama, so much so that he wanted to emulate his style. The only problem was, Beverly himself had a fear of public speaking.
The Philadelphia native grew up with stage fright in regard to giving speeches, an issue that was made worse when he forgot the lines to a speech during his sophomore year. But his desire to become an amazing public speaker, like Obama, was greater than his fear.
He took action by joining a non-profit organization that teaches public speaking skills, Toastmasters International. Flash forward one decade, when Beverly competed against over 30,000 competitors to earn the title, Toastmasters’ 2019 World Champion of Public Speaking.
Today Beverly is a manager at JP Morgan Chase in Philadelphia, a position that requires him to have outstanding communication skills, including public speaking. He says that the road to winning the championship involved too many practice hours to count.
Nonetheless, he identified several factors that ultimately pushed him past his fear and on toward global success. According to Beverly, recording and listening to yourself talk is the best way to overcome a persistent fear of public speaking. Hearing your own voice enables you to recognize mistakes you might not otherwise.
This includes talking too fast and making unnecessary pauses. At first most of us cringe when listening to the sound of our voices (I sound like that?!) but once you get over the initial discomfort, you won’t even think twice about it.
Identifying your fear is another key step toward conquering your anxiety. What exactly about public speaking makes you nervous? Although most people see themselves as having a broad fear of public speaking in general, Beverly thinks that most individual’s fear a specific aspect of the process.
For example, Beverly eventually realized that his fear centered around forgetting his lines. Only when he was able to pinpoint his specific fear about giving speeches, was he then able to confront it. Like Beverly, do you have a fear of blanking out on your lines?
If so, the best thing you can do to alleviate your anxiety is to practice your lines until you know them by heart. To give you an idea of how much stock he puts into this exercise, Beverly practiced for 20 hours straight in order to memorize the four-minute talk he gave to win his award.
Still, remember that no one expects perfection. Practicing and preparing will help you to deliver a better talk, but we’re all human—if you do flub up, just laugh it off and keep going. According to Beverly, making a connection with an audience is key to being an effective speaker.
In order to accomplish this, Beverly researches an audience so that he can choose a topic that they will relate to, and he determines what words he will use to help facilitate their understanding. For example, speaking in medical jargon is fine when addressing a professional conference but not when speaking to laymen.
If you remember to craft your message with the audience in mind, tailoring your word choice and organizational pattern to their needs, you’ll do just fine. Regardless of whether you’re a student, someone who wants to polish their professional skills or someone who wants to master the art of public speaking, there are many benefits to be had from engaging in this endeavor.
- The ability to advocate for causes
- Improved confidence
- Stronger analytic skills
- Improved research skills
There is no doubt that public speaking plays a critical role in education, business and government. Marjorie North has written extensively about how to master the communication basics that will help you to become a better, more confident speaker.
Here we’ll take a look at several strategies you can try to improve your communication process. First, know that nervousness is a normal part of public speaking—even the most experienced speakers can experience trembling hands and pounding hearts from time to time depending on the circumstances.
If you feel a bothersome physiological reaction, tell yourself that this does not mean you will automatically botch your talk or make a fool of yourself. In fact, a bit of adrenaline can serve to increase your alertness level priming you to give your best performance.
Second, don’t be afraid to let your personality be a part of your speech. You can do this by using your sense of humor and sharing appropriate personal anecdotes.
Sharing a bit of yourself lets the audience know who you are and increases the chance of them connecting with you. Lastly, you can accentuate your connection to your audience by watching for their reactions and adapting to them. Staying flexible in this way allows you to adjust your message as need be and appear more responsive and attentive.
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