Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator
Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator
Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator

Articles

Public Speaking

Storytellers and authors and often called upon to speak before a group to tell about their craft and journey. But in spite of being in the public eye, not all of them are comfortable with speaking before a crowd!

In fact, the number one fear is public speaking (the second fear is death). However, if you know how to craft a good speech and deliver it, you'll be fine. You'll need to develop your own speaking style to ensure that your audience remembers you and what you said. Studies have shown that 50% of what was heard is forgotten during the session, and 75% of the material is forgotten by the end of the same day. One way to combat this is to repeat what you want to ensure they remember.

And bear in mind that children aren't the only ones with short attention spans - the average adult has an attention span of less than 15 second before their mind begins to drift. It's quite a challenge for the speaker to keep recapturing the attention of the audience! How can they do this? By using humor, inserting a story, ask rhetorical questions every now and again, pause for effect to let the audience catch up and wonder what you'll say next!

Public speaking doesn't just pertain to someone standing behind a podium, spouting off great knowledge. Public speaking is anytime you open your mouth to talk - it could be to tell someone else about a trip you took, sale you went to, a special event you attended, trying to convince another person to do something with or for you, or relate a story. Think of a salesman trying to convince someone to make a purchase. Or a student making a presentation to his classmates. Public speaking takes on many aspects.

It boils down to this: It's not what you say, but how you say it that will make the difference!

Like everything else you do, you must be prepared - know what you want to say and what you want the result to be. Work on your speech - line up your information and sequence the material. Write down notes for you to follow - but not read! Use the notes only to remind you of what you want to say next (outline form is best). Practice your speech many times before actually delivering.

Open strong - with a grabber that will make your audience sit up and be ready to listen to you. It could be a rhetorical question, an anecdote, or astonishing fact. Then, move on with your speech.

Your voice is your tool, and must be used effectively. Be expressive, but natural and conversation. Use inflections, intonations, vary the volume level and vary the pitches, as well as your rhythm and pace. If appropriate, you can use your voice for "sound effects", as well as facial expressions and gestures.

Be aware of your audience - make sure they're paying attention! Scan them often, pausing every now again to re-capture them. Eye contact with as many as you can is effective - if you have a large group, individual eye contact will be impossible, but you can target areas and the people in those areas will think you're looking at them!

Through your entire speech, you must be relaxed - breathe deeply (from the diaphragm), tell your speech smoothly - no hems or haws, "and so", and "um" etc. By being relaxed you'll give an air of confidence and your audience will realize you know what you're talking about!

If you've outlined your speech, and your vocabulary is understandable, you'll have your audience in the palm of your hands from beginning to end.

But what if you forgot to say something? Don't apologize - just insert it wherever and whenever possible. The audience will never know.

Or, what if a distraction occurs and your mind suddenly goes blank? Stay calm! Take a few deep breaths, repeat the last thing you said, or ad lib and readjust. Soon, you'll be back on track and you can keep going.

Whew! A lot to keep in mind when giving a speech, and you'll be glad to see it come to an end. And when it does, be sure to thank your audience for their attention - you may want to call for questions (that's up to you!)

So the next time you're called upon to speak before a group, keep this in mind - plan ahead, prepare, practice! Then give it all you've gotl

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