How Are Your Public Speaking Skills?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    May 14, 2011 8:36 PM GMT
    Today I gave a 15 minute presentation using PowerPoint. It went very well. Some people said it was the best they saw out of the others. I guess I'm my own toughest critic.

    But I was very nervous. My heart was pounding. I lost my train of thought a few times but rebounded quickly. I need to practice more.

    Who is mortified of public speaking to a large group?

    How have you overcome your fears?

    Tips?
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    May 14, 2011 8:57 PM GMT
    KissingPro saidHow have you overcome your fears?

    Tips?

    Practice, practice, practice!

    I've spoken spontaneously before crowds of thousands. And TV & radio audiences of who-knows how many? And also spoken from prepared text. That's what I do, it comes so naturally I hardly think about it anymore.

    With a live audience, I try to look right into single faces. I scan the audience, going from one to another. I have no fear of people. Rather, I draw my strength from them. It's the same as addressing people at a cocktail reception, or students in one of my classrooms, or my soldiers in formation, just multiplied several times.

    Actually I love it, I thrive being on stage, in front of an audience. But I do have to practice it, to keep the skill current.

    When I taught college, at the beginning of each semester, after a break of a month or more, I was clumsy at first in my lectures. It took me about 2 or 3 weeks of daily presentations before I really started to "click" and have it down.

    If you threw me onto a stage today I'd be fair, but not at my best. I need that regular practice. That's one of the reasons I was reading at church, so my skills wouldn't atrophy. You should look for other public speaking tasks for yourself, whatever they are.

    Toughest for me is being blinded by stage lighting, where I can't see the audience, just a black wall. I NEED the audience, to see their faces, to work with them. So I must imagine them sitting there, and pretend to be looking at them, as I usually do. That's a tough one, for which I have no solution.
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    May 14, 2011 9:04 PM GMT
    Real nice....thanks
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    May 15, 2011 12:42 AM GMT
    No comment. I have the worst social skills in the world... I know, a 30 year old man that can't communicate with people... How sad. But I'm man enough to admit my flaw. It's the reason I'll die single. I can't even meet guys, don't know what to say to them icon_sad.gif I just hide what I feel for them and keep walking... They'll never know just how much I like them.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    May 15, 2011 12:57 AM GMT
    its a big fear of mine and lately ive been working on it. i saw a therapist (more as a career counselor) and she recommended a book on anxiety, which i read. she also told me to ask my doctor about an anti-anxiety med for public speaking, and he gave me a prescription. (it turns out he used it himeslf promoting his diet book in the view!) the other advice is to start small, arrange for an opportunity to speak with low stakes and a small audience, so when it goes well, you build confidence. i got to do that recently and it went fine ( it made me realize i should have prepared more, but it was still fine.)
    definately worth it to work on it -- for me its like the one thing ive never worked on and it feels good to at least be working on it. good luck, kissingpro, it sounds like youre well on your way.
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    May 15, 2011 1:11 AM GMT
    KissingPro said
    Tips?


    1. Practice practice practice. Do it in front of people, like family members. It helps.

    2. Remember to SLOW DOWN. Most people speed up when they are nervous and that really makes the audience sense their anxiety. Remember, you have gone through your presentation like 100 times, but it's the FIRST TIME that your audience is hearing your presentation. So if you can slow down, it will help them understand more.

    3. When you're talking for the big event, try to hear yourself, and articulate every single syllable. Try to listen to what you're saying and how you are saying it (you should do this while you're practicing as well). When you speak in a very clear and well-enunciated manner, people perceive you as well organized and well-spoken, even if your content does not make any sense (I'm serious about this).

    4. Do not use connective sounds like, "umm....", or "er.....". This makes you sound very unsure of what you are trying to say, and hence gives the audience a bad impression of you. If you cannot remember your next point, just pause, and look at the room with confidence. It'll come to you.

    5. Now powerpoints. If you have elaborate words, like sentences typed up on the powerpoint, you should read them verbatim. One thing that it is really ANNOYING about some people's powerpoint presentation is that they deviate from what they wrote originally. I can read what you wrote previously, or I can listen to you, but I cannot do it both at the same time. It creates confusion. This is why most of my powerpoints are figures, or just bulletpoints that serve as cues of what I am saying next.

    Hope these help! These are the pointers that I give to my students. In the class that I teach I have my students do two powerpoint presentations per semester and these are the guidelines that I usually give them. icon_biggrin.gif
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    May 15, 2011 1:23 AM GMT
    I've often heard people saying that public speaking is something they dread. I remember back in college my school had a public-speaking course that counted as a general education requirement. Everyone had to take it some time within their first year, and I know most people hated it. However, I actually liked the class a lot and learned much from it. I probably lucked out on a good professor more than anything.

    I actually don't get terribly nervous when giving presentations. I'm often the one who volunteers to go first because nobody else wants to go. I like to believe that I put a lot of thought and character into almost anything I present. However, I know some of my weaknesses are that I tend to talk quite fast and throw a lot of information out in a short amount of time. Sometimes I get so excited about what I'm presenting that I offer more than I originally intended.
  • barriehomeboy

    Posts: 2475

    May 15, 2011 1:38 AM GMT
    in surveys, people dread speaking in public more than they dread their own death. You survived, and I bet most of the people watching you in that room today were fantasizing about sexual encounters with you instead of listening to what you were saying anyway.
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    May 15, 2011 1:48 AM GMT
    Not too bad, not super, I guess. Today I whipped up a presentation for a visiting geology class in about ten minutes, and took them on a short field trip, in the middle of a family crisis.

    If you are constantly being interviewed about the same things, you eventually develop a set of talks that are tailored for different lengths of time. Also, I've taught the same college classes enough times that I can usually pull standard lectures out of my ass on all the topics covered.

    The most memorable "ambush" interview was laying in my bed, naked, around 0400, when the phone rang. (Back when I was dumb enough to keep a phone extension in the headboard.) It was some guy from the BBC World Service, who was live on the air and "just wanted to know if we could have a little chat" with the whole fucking world listening in. If I was more awake, I might have had time to try to think about what I could get away with saying before they could hit the cut-off switch. But I stumbled through it some how.

    So yeah, Practice.
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    May 15, 2011 1:50 AM GMT
    I imagine the only thing worse is students having to give presentations in foreign language classes, haha.
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    May 15, 2011 1:55 AM GMT
    pocketnico saidI imagine the only thing worse is students having to give presentations in foreign language classes, haha.


    Hah, I've done worse: TV interviews in foreign countries where I could only understand half of the question, and my answers were probably total non-sequiters. Fortunately, for my most incompetent one, it was outside on a hot sunny day and reporter was wearing spike heels, short shorts, and a couple of pieces of gauze. I'm sure nobody even noticed that I was in the picture.
  • FriscoJansen

    Posts: 2552

    May 15, 2011 2:36 AM GMT
    Have you heard of Toastmasters? Maybe join a group.icon_smile.gif
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    May 15, 2011 2:40 AM GMT
    I am the worse, not so good at it.
  • BIG_N_TALL

    Posts: 2190

    May 15, 2011 2:50 AM GMT
    I gave a speech (w/ Q&A) in front of ~100 people a few days before I graduated from college. My major mandated I give speeches/presentations in front of groups of varying size. My advice - and I know it sounds egotistical, but it works - give a speech or presentation ** feeling ** and ** looking ** like you are a world-renown expert on what you are talking about.

    My experience is that most of the time, no one knows what the hell you are talking about in great detail, and if you come across with confidence on what you are talking about, they'll be less likely to question/embarrass you openly.... because they don't want to embarrass themselves in the event they are wrong. Even if you don't feel like an expert, it's the presentation that matters - coupled with a lot of eye contact. Look at people, but don't stare them down.
  • jim_sf

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    May 15, 2011 2:58 AM GMT
    Lots of good advice, but this:

    cityaznguy said2. Remember to SLOW DOWN.


    +10^100.
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    May 15, 2011 3:02 AM GMT
    barriehomeboy saidin surveys, people dread speaking in public more than they dread their own death. You survived, and I bet most of the people watching you in that room today were fantasizing about sexual encounters with you instead of listening to what you were saying anyway.

    That may all be true. And at 20 I had never spoken publicly in my entire life. I certainly didn't want to do it.

    In 1970 I'd been in the Army a mere 7 months, and I was told to address a large group of new trainees. By rank I was the senior person in the room, already a Corporal (and soon to be a Sergeant in record time). So what now?

    Well, yah know, you grab your balls and say to yourself: "You'll do this, it's your job, you're in charge, now just fucking do it, soldier!" And I did. Strangely, I actually enjoyed it, and I suppose found my calling. Maybe the OP will find his.
  • BIG_N_TALL

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    May 15, 2011 3:06 AM GMT
    jim_stl saidLots of good advice, but this:

    cityaznguy said2. Remember to SLOW DOWN.


    +10^100.


    Agreed! Don't panic, and don't say "um" or "uh" in between statements. A lot of people say it in daily life, and I suppose no one really gets bent out of shape over it, but you look/sound so much better if you don't say it during a speech/presentation.
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    May 15, 2011 3:16 AM GMT
    Everyone has already thrown out some real good pointers but I'll put in my two cents because this is closest thing to human interaction I get.

    1. To help me get over my fear public speaking I found a volunteer oppurtunity that had me give speeches every 2 weeks for over a year. After the first month I felt like I was talking to friends and family. The more you do it the easier it gets.

    2. I made sure I knew the material in and out. I didn't practice or rehearse speeches but gave myself an agenda and timeline for the information I was speaking on.

    3. I made sure to wear clothes that were comfortable but made me feel confident. Last thing you should be worried about when your speaking is your clothes. It helps ease the nerves if you're wearing clothes that you know you look good in. (it should be obvious that the clothes are appropiate for the event.)

    4. Make it fun. If there is anyway to make your speech fun for you it relaxes you and your audience.

    And I just want to say the imagining people in their undies doesn't help for people who are easily aroused.
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    May 15, 2011 3:25 AM GMT
    There's also something to be aware of called an amygdala hijacking. It's the feeling you get when you're freaked out and all of a sudden your heart starts racing real fast.

    Once this starts it'll take about 10 minutes to calm down because all of the hormones and chemicals that have just raced into your body need time to filter back into your blood system.

    If your presentation or speech is longer than 10 minutes then maybe you can take comfort in knowing that that feeling will go away. Just stick it out. Know that most others, even professionals get that hijacking. Try to plan for it in some way.
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    May 15, 2011 3:34 AM GMT
    I'm always nervous when I have to present or go in front of a crowd. I freak out before going going on stage all the time, but once I'm up it's not too bad. For speaking I usually just take deep breaths, and then talk slower than what my body is telling me to do. I try make eye contact with a few people I know, or just look slightly above peoples' heads. I tend to smile a lot and speak with a loud, bold, confident attitude because I find people will actually engage better like that, or at least I think so. icon_lol.gif
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    May 15, 2011 3:38 AM GMT
    Here's what I do:

    - Remove all objects from my pockets, that might create a bulge or tempt me to play with in my pockets. (You shouldn't present any kind of visual distraction to your audience)
    - I've trained myself to avoid "ahs" and "ums." Wherever I think I might say one, I take a pause. You need pauses anyway, for your audience to absorb what you're lecturing. You can't just be spewing it out non-stop. Make the pause deliberate and even dramatic, you always being the person in charge.
    - I speak more slowly according to size of my audience. If I'm not amplified, I speak very slowly, each word with a pause. The laws of acoustics and human hearing determine how fast we can speak before audiences of different sizes. In general, the larger the space and the audience, the slower we must speak.
    - Look your audience in the eye, when you can. Connecting with individual people helps you to connect with the larger audience. It can also help you to avoid stage fright. A faceless mob staring at you can be intimidating -- a single face can be more friendly. Find it, and go from one to another.
    - Memorize as much as you can when speaking prepared remarks. NEVER be looking down at your copy. It's there only as a prompt.
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    May 15, 2011 3:40 AM GMT
    Do any of you adjust your accent when you speak in public if you sound a bit too regional?
  • jim_sf

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    May 15, 2011 3:47 AM GMT
    pocketnico saidDo any of you adjust your accent when you speak in public if you sound a bit too regional?


    If I know my audience has people whose first language isn't English, then yes, I'll make my accent as blandly Midwestern as possible and avoid colloquialisms.
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    May 15, 2011 3:49 AM GMT
    pocketnico saidDo any of you adjust your accent when you speak in public if you sound a bit too regional?


    When I give talks at international conferences, I would try to use very neutral words, and try to avoid regional sensitive words. Accentwise, I'm from New York so unfortunately occasional Brooklyn accent would come out, even when I have corrected enough of it through a speech class. That was not a lot of fun...in that class we had to watch the ABC or NBC world nightly news, record it, and tried to imitate those exact words exactly the way that the anchors said it. Ick!!
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    May 15, 2011 3:50 AM GMT
    pocketnico saidDo any of you adjust your accent when you speak in public if you sound a bit too regional?

    Of course. My New York City accent becomes completely neutral, and my diction very precise. No slurring, no shortcuts, no saying "wanna" instead of "want to" when I'm speaking in a more formal setting.

    Anyone who meets me can hear me go from "relaxed" to "formal" speech. One of my college degrees is in Speech/Phonetics, so an easy thing for me.