Public Speaking Class

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serenity5x5
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Public Speaking Class

Postby serenity5x5 » Mon Jan 25, 2010 2:51 pm UTC

I know this is a tired stereotype, but alas, I am an engineering student who fears speaking in front of her classmates for a period longer than 5 minutes. I blush, I sweat, I stutter, I forget. Well, as part of a requirement, I am now taking a public speaking class.

Any tips for overcoming fear of speaking while delivering a speech?

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Bakemaster
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby Bakemaster » Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:50 pm UTC

Keep in mind that your audience is not seeing into your sould. They are only seeing whatever you give them—and though you may not be reciting a dramatic monologue, public speaking often calls for a bit of theater. Even if it's not obvious. Consider the type of behavior that you think your audience wants to see; the mannerisms, the inflections, etc. Try to show them that. Don't make the mistake of thinking that they're looking at you—they can't see what's going on in your head. They're looking at whatever you give them, and it's within your capacity to control exactly what you give them, with a little practice.

Goof off in front of a mirror. Make faces; do impressions. Try to see yourself from the point of view of looking at someone else; and then try to make yourself look like a certain type of someone else. Observe the way that you can make yourself look different, despite still feeling like yourself inside; this demonstrates a gap, a disconnect, between the observer and the observed. No matter what you do or who you are, the observer may see you according to something that is within them; some prejudice, or some assumption, or some subconscious default. Whether they're right or wrong, they probably feel that they are right; but the can be shown that their feeling was wrong. What this means is that even if they WERE right to begin with, they don't really KNOW it—and if you show them something else, you can make them even more convinced that they were wrong, than they originally were convinced of their rightness.

Am I being confusing, or helpful? Maybe some of both?
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby Ended » Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:12 pm UTC

This is probably obvious, but the best technical talks are given by people who know their material back-to-front and are excited about telling you about it. With this in mind, it is vital that you know exactly what information you want to convey, and are confident that you can answer any reasonable question which your audience might ask*.

Practice, practice, practice. Always practice out loud, either to yourself or to a friend or family member. A technique I find helpful is to write out a talk word-for-word then practice it several times. Then, distil the written-out talk into bullet points and practice it several times. Then, distil the bullet points into just a few key phrases, and only bring this to the talk. The final talk should be different (and hopefully much better) than the original written out version. The idea is to get comfortable enough with your material that you don't need to read it out word for word, but can reconstruct it from just a few prompts.

Make a conscious effort to avoid saying 'um' and 'er', since this makes you appear nervous or unsure of your material, and your audience will pick up on this and reflect that uncertainty back to you. This can lead to a feedback cycle which can destroy your talk (I have seen this happen!). If you find yourself stumbling then pause, be silent for a moment, gather yourself, and compose the next sentence in your head before starting to speak again. This way you should appear thoughtful rather than nervous (even though you might feel nervous!). Also, don't be afraid to slow your speech down - most people talk too fast when they're nervous.

____
*here's an interesting and somewhat inspirational passage about Churchill, one of the great public speakers:
Spoiler:
Churchill is a case study in determination. As a boy, he suffered from a severe lisp that took years of therapy and countless hours of hard work to overcome. By the time he took his seat in the British Parliament he thought of himself as an accomplished speaker until his maiden speech before the House of Commons. By all accounts, the reception he got was disastrous. Not only did his speech go badly, but he was totally unprepared for the questioning that followed.

A less determined man might have decided to throw in the sponge (or whatever proper British gentlemen do when confronted with impossible situations). What Churchill did was practice, practice, practice. Before facing the House of Commons a second time, he polished his arguments and spent hours in front of the mirror practicing his delivery. Then, remembering his embarrassment during the Q & A session that followed that first speech, Churchill started what was to become a life-long practice. He sat down and made a list of every conceivable question that might be asked and carefully crafted his responses. In the process, Sir Winston transformed himself into a speaker known for his rapier whit; a master of the comeback.
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Jorpho
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby Jorpho » Tue Jan 26, 2010 3:45 am UTC

I don't know if I've ever been a particularly bad public speaker. I'm good at memorizing and not caring what other people think.

Anyway, if there's no particular public speaking class available where you are, do you have a local chapter of Toastmasters? In my experience the groups are overly supportive to the point of creepiness, and I sometimes think they're out to keep people coming back so they'll pay their dues, but give it a try - you can usually come to a few sessions with no obligation.

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Omegaton
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby Omegaton » Tue Jan 26, 2010 8:18 pm UTC

Remember that the whole point of speaking is to communicate a point. It's really good if this point is something you actually want to say, which gives motivation, but it also means that you're familiar with what you're saying.

Whenever I have to give a talk I practice it by saying it to myself several times If you know your message you only need notes rather than a script to remind yourself what you're saying and where you're going.

Also, eye contact is important. Better than nothing is faked eye contact, where you kind of scan around the room but don't actually look at anyone; I've heard some people say looking at the scanning the back wall of the room is nice. Eye contact is great because it grabs an individual's attention. However, eye contact isn't just important for listeners, it's a great way to see how your audience is actually listening to you.

I have heard some people say to think about giving a talk like you would to someone you are familiar with, like a family member or a close friend. This is good way to think about it to get relaxed, but only so much as you don't break formality, which is often good to have.

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Kow
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby Kow » Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:04 am UTC

Don't be afraid to use your hands. I find it helps me get my ideas formulated and the movements often add a lot to what you're saying.
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AtlasDrugged
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby AtlasDrugged » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:07 pm UTC

Practice as much as you can. Being intimately familiar with your subject will help since you will be able to think about it instinctively and improvise/answer questions confidently rather than having to reason through everything. Also, gesturing a lot can be distracting, but as Kow says, using your hands can help a lot.

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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby Bakemaster » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:12 pm UTC

The key is to use your hands if you feel that using your hands is natural. Don't flail about just because you think you need motion in order to seem stronger or more dynamic. Yes, that's a technique that you could use, but you have to be a pretty solid speaker to begin with, if it doesn't come naturally to you to gesture while you talk. If it does come naturally, then you may want some day to deliver a speech without gesturing to achieve a different effect; but again, that would be considered an advanced nuance that requires a solid grasp of public speaking from within your comfort zone. Do what comes naturally.
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mypsychoticself
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby mypsychoticself » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:10 pm UTC

If you can't look people in the eye, look at their foreheads or noses. Don't wander around the stage. Enunciate. Remember to breathe.

Best of luck!
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TMBFY
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby TMBFY » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:33 pm UTC

Most of what's helped me is a state of mind and simple practice.

In terms of state of mind, calm yourself beforehand and remember that it's only speaking...after all, you've been doing it nearly all of your life, yes?
Also, remind yourself that what you have to say is valid, important, and interesting to whomever you are speaking to (even if it might not seem so...haha!).

In terms of practice, it's fairly redundant at this point, but it is important and helpful to rehearse what you're going to be saying. Even better if you can have a family member or close friend hear you on it before you present.

Hope it helps, and good luck in your class!
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby Kizyr » Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:59 am UTC

How do you feel when you're explaining something to one other person? When you're in a conversation with just one or two other people?

Try to be aware of that then next time you're just talking randomly. If you can hold onto that conversational feeling, then it can really help with speaking in front of larger crowds.

Also, being nervous is rather natural, so don't worry if it takes some time to overcome. KF
~Kizyr
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achan1058
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Re: Public Speaking Class

Postby achan1058 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 6:12 am UTC

Try to practice it with a small number of people. For long speeches or talks, you should do some preparation, which helps into making you more confident.


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