Overcome Your Fear Of Public Speaking By Being Well Prepared
by: Emily Sanders
You are only four steps away from having all the best public speaking techniques and tools you’ll need to organize yourself to deliver the best speech you possibly can. Fear of public speaking and stage fright really often relate to the fact that as a speaker you’re just not sure how your speech will be received by your audience. The best tips on public speaking any speaker can give you are that you need to be well prepared in advance and you need to try to eliminate unpredictable outcomes as much as you can. When something happens while you are on stage that you “really” didn’t expect, you need to have a back-up plan or else you’ll freeze and you’ll loose your train of thought. Nothing can replace practice and preparation. The following public speaking techniques to preparing yourself will drill these points even further.
Having chosen a theme for your speech, the logical order to follow is 1) gather the material, 2) carefully select the best from the material you’ve gathered and arrange it in order of delivery (what will be your introduction, main topic and conclusion) 3) have a clear picture in your mind of the entire speech and the order in which it will be presented. The task of finding material may be slow and tedious at first, but successive efforts will make it much easier. The habit of completely “thinking out” a subject should be cultivated from the beginning to avoid wasting time. Thoughts should be noted down in writing as they occur and not be left to the caprice of memory (we lead such busy lives, create a “note pad” on your computer or a Word document to gather any ideas that come to mind). To do a proper job at gathering your material, make sure you start well in advance because it does take time and you don’t want to rush the process. After exhausting the resources of your own mind, you may next turn to books in order to confirm and strengthen ideas and gather further new material. You will also need to interact with well-informed people whenever possible.
Note worthy: the note-book habit can not be too strongly urged here as the only safeguard against lapses of memory. References, ideas, quotations and arguments should be promptly put down in writing. At this stage of preparing a speech you should eagerly read books, magazines and newspapers, with a view to finding further suitable material.
The advice given to preachers by Prof. Arthur S. Hoyt (he was a religious public speaker), applies equally to other public speakers. He says: “By all means do your own thinking. Fix your thought upon the text and subject, and try to penetrate to its vital meaning. Find the message for your own soul in it. Believe in the spirit of truth and learn to trust your own judgment as enlightened by his influence. Do not go at once to commentaries and homiletic handbooks for material, but let your own thought grow by thinking. Take stock of your own mental and spiritual resources. Be thoroughly yourself and find your own voice, for in this way only will you have that personal and individual flavor which makes the charm of true preaching.”
Step #2 ― ARRANGING MATERIAL
The second step, that of selecting what is desirable from this mass of unarranged material, requires unusual skill and judgment. Many pet ideas and phrases must be discarded (a.k.a. get rid of as many clichés as possible). Certain portions will probably have to be rewritten many times before they are at all satisfactory.
You should carefully note the distinction between the preparation of an essay and a public address. There is a wide difference between them, in as much as one is intended to be spoken, while the other is intended to be read silently. Both require the highest kind of literary ability, but a speech demands a more vivid style than an essay, being designed to arouse the emotions of the audience as well as to convince his judgment. In a speech, too, frequent repetition of thought may be indulged in, to emphasize or drive home truth, the phraseology in such repetitions must be changed. Aristotle (an Ancient Greek philosopher) speaks of this as the orator’s gift of tautology. In preparing a speech it is well to stop every little while in writing and read aloud what has been written to find whether it” speaks” well. If the words do not fit the mouth of the speaker there is something wrong somewhere and he/she should endeavor to find it out as soon as possible, otherwise he/she may have to prepare his entire address over again.
Step #3 ― BRIEFING
A “brief” is not only for lawyers, the court room, marketing executives and ad agencies, as so many people may believe. It is a plan whereby any speaker may arrange his/her material in logical order, in somewhat the same manner that the architect draws his plans of a proposed building. The regular divisions of a brief are: 1. The Introduction. 2. The Brief Proper (components of the main body). 3. The Conclusion. It is made up of certain definite statements, put into concise language and distinguished by letters or numbers and stats. Under each of the main headings may come subheadings setting forth subordinate ideas. As the name implies, a “brief” means conciseness and clearness throughout, so that the entire plan can be readily understood by another.
Step #4 ― COMMITTING
It is good discipline for the average beginner to thoroughly memorize his/her speeches. This will train you in accuracy of expression and increase your self-confidence (and therefore decrease your fear of public speaking because you won’t need to rely on your notes). As you gain experience, you may speak simply from full notes, then from an outline or “brief,” and finally from a series of “catch-words” or headings.
There is a wide difference of opinion as to whether a speech should be memorized or not. This is a matter that depends largely upon the temperament of the speaker. Some people are handicapped by a memorized effort (if you can barely remember where you usually park your car in a parking lot, you might not want to attempt to fully memorize your speeches). These types of speakers must have free exercise of the mind at the moment of speaking; otherwise they prove cold and mechanical. It should be your aim to eventually acquire the art of impromptu speaking, but in the majority of cases the habit of memorizing at first will be found both necessary and advantageous (don’t forget, the mind is also a muscle).
Your speech should be recited aloud many times, before a mirror, with suitable gesture, and, when possible, in the hall or place where you’ll deliver the speech.
A successful speaker once said: “They talk of my astonishing bursts of eloquence, and doubtless imagine it is my genius bubbling over. It is nothing of the sort. I’ll tell you how I do it. I select a subject and study it from the ground up. When I have mastered it fully, I write a speech on it. Then I take a walk and come back, and revise and correct. In a few days I subject it to another pruning, and then recopy it. Next I add the finishing touches, round it off with graceful periods, and commit it to memory. Then I speak in my garage, in my garden, and before my mirror, until gesture and delivery are perfect. It sometimes takes me six weeks or two months to get up a speech. When I am prepared I come to town and present my speech to my audience. It astonishes the people, as I intended it should, and they go away marveling at my power of oratory. They call it genius, but it is the hardest kind of work.”