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Public Speaking

Getting Over your Fear of Public Speaking

“H-H-Hello,

Aoa Everyone

My name is…”

(Awkward Silence)

At one point in our life we have all had an opportunity to speak in front of a large majority of people: be it at a school prize distribution (overachieving students) or at a funeral (a “eulogy” for those who do not know). The vast majority of us feel a degree of nervous apprehension when preparing to speak up or perform in front of a group and we might experience the ill effects of a type of social anxiety disorder (also known as stage fright in less fancy terms).

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The fear of public speaking or performance, often called stage fright, exacts a huge toll on self-confidence and self-esteem and causes some people to leave school or a job or pass up a promotion. Many, including seasoned professional performers, suffer in silent terror. Though if there is a will, there is a way. Subsequently, there are methods we can use to counter this fear (though it is not advisable to speak up at any given instance such as when your parent/teacher is scolding you. It is better to remain silent at those times than adding fuel to the fire –talking from experience).

The front of the room – a dreaded place for many individuals.

A Day or two before the dreaded Showtime

Start off with thinking about your crowd. As you make and practice your introduction, consider the needs, knowledge, and expectations of the audience. If you’re speaking to a younger audience, adjust your content, voice, and speech as necessary. Be sure to be interactive and entertaining (otherwise be prepared to get booed because young people get bored easily). If it’s an older and sterner audience, be more practical and logical (on a side note, be prepared for the endless stares and tight-lipped silence they give you while you are speaking. They will show no energy so don’t make it so that you lose energy while performing for them).

Next off, record yourself. Videotape yourself as you give your introduction using a phone or any video capturing device. Continue exhibiting and taping until you can look at the recording and think, “Oye Hoye yar! Ye kon itna –words removed by Editor- banda hai!” If you’re not happy with how you look on tape, then you won’t be pleased with how you appear in person. Continue doing this until the point when you hit the nail on the head.

IMPORTANT: BE SURE TO REMOVE ALL EVIDENCE OF THIS RECORDING OTHERWISE IT CAN AND WILL BE USED AS BLACKMAIL MATERIAL.

Finally, time your presentation beforehand. Become accustomed to the pace that you have to complete your introduction at the proper time. Keep a watch with you and look at it occasionally to ensure you’re on track. (Occasionally does not in any way mean every 2 seconds. Every minute or so is still feasible).

We all have the potential to be the next Obama.

On the Day of the Performance Remember

It’s finally the day of your performance and now you are wondering what to do and as your legs shake in hesitation and your stomach turns upside down here are a few things you should keep in mind while performing:

This may sound obvious but make it intriguing, it’s likely that part of the reason you’re having stage fright is because you’re worried that everyone will think you’re boring (Well, you may be worried about being boring because your material is boring or because you yourself are boring and have close to zero sense of humour). Regardless of whether you’re talking or introducing exceptionally dry material, consider approaches to make it more accessible and engaging. You’ll be less worried about presenting if you know that your content will be engaging.

For instance, if it’s appropriate, make some room for laughter. Toss in a couple of jokes that will ease your tension and relax the audience (Jokes does not mean slang language. Go onto YouTube and find clean jokes such as “Knock Knock” jokes).

Moving on, do not ever begin by telling people you’re anxious. Don’t show up on stage and make a little joke about being nervous (Like can you just not?). Everyone will assume that you’re confident just because you’re already up there (psychological tricks, eh). Announcing that you’re nervous may make you feel better, but the audience will lose faith in you (if they had any seeing your ugly face up there) instead of paying attention.

Most importantly, you can surely move around, but don’t fidget. You can blow off some nervous energy and reach your audience by pacing back and forth across the stage. If you move around with energy and gesture for emphasis, you’ll be overcoming your stage fright just by moving. But do not, in any case, squirm by moving your hands together, playing with your hair, or fiddling with your microphone or speech or presentation notes. That will give off a really bad impression and when you’re on the stage all your actions are seen very blatantly by the audience.

Lastly, slow down. Most public speakers manifest their stage fright by talking way too fast. You might talk quickly since you’re anxious and want to get the speech or presentation over with, but this will actually make it harder for you to articulate your ideas or to reach your audience. The vast majority who talk too quick don’t understand that they’re doing it, so make sure to delay for a second after each new idea and to leave space for your group of onlookers to respond to essential explanations. Furthermore, slowing down will also make you less likely to stutter or misspell your words (changing 9/11 to 7/11 for instance).

Have a dead smile on you and you’ll be done with your speech before you know it.

After the “embarrassing” Escapade

Get down from the stage. Take a deep breath. Know that you are done with it then go around and ask your friends how you did. If you really want to improve your stage fright, you should ask your audience how you did by asking for feedback afterward. Knowing what you did well will build your confidence and knowing how you can improve will help you feel more confident the next time you get on stage.

Remember: Take constructive criticism and not needless pessimistic comments. Learn to differentiate between the two because while one helps in growth the other just chains you down and stops you from evolving.

It all begins with a small step. When you start speaking before you know it you will be rocking the stage. Learn to believe in yourself and trust yourself more. If you had the skill and capability to get on that stage you surely have the capacity to improve and show everyone what you are made of. Do not fear for if you fear you won’t be able to reach the new heights that no one ever reached.

Adapted from:
Overcoming Stage Fright

Public Speaking is the art of diluting a two-minute idea with a two hour vocabulary ~  John. F. Kennedy

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