OK, you have taken great care to prepare your speech, and the big day has arrived. You stand up, face your audience, and remove your notes from your pocket. For the next fifteen minutes, you read your carefully-crafted words of wisdom, not looking up for fear of losing your place. As you finish, you do finally look up, and receive a polite smattering of applause from those still in attendance. You breathe a sigh of relief. A success? Well, er…no. They’re being polite. The biggest gap between reading and speaking is called fear. It causes people who are normally quite capable of speaking their minds to get the jitters and the shakes when called to the podium. The root of this fear is the human need to be accepted. Put differently, we’re afraid of making fools of ourselves.
When you make a speech, people want you to talk to them. They haven’t come to see you read, otherwise you might just as well have made copies of your script, and handed it out for people to read at their leisure. To become an exceptional speaker, you’ll need to understand the root of fear in speakers. This will mean that when it’s your turn to stand and deliver, you’re ready to look up, speak up and make a difference. Here are a few tips on overcoming the fear of speaking:
1. If you’d like to conquer the fear of speaking to an audience you need to understand the source of this fear, specifically where it relates to you.
2. Nervousness is natural, but it can also be dealt with.
3. A good technique is to find a friendly face in your audience and imagine you’re speaking just to that person.
4. It is just as easy to speak to a large audience as it is to a small one. There is no difference. An audience is an audience.
5. People who occupy high positions are just as human as the rest of us and therefore do not need to be feared more than anyone else.
6. Channel your excess energy towards the center of your body – specifically your diaphragm. This will help you with voice control, keep you calmer and remove the fidgeting from your fingers and toes.
7. Speaking from notes will help you to keep track of your order. Use cue cards rather than an A4 notepad.
These tips, and hundreds of others are from a new book called “The Exceptional Speaker” by Alan Stevens and Paul du Toit. It is the definitive book on speaking, and is now available from Amazon in Kindle and hardback format, as well as from exceptionalspeaker.com as a PDF.
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