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The Art Of Public Speaking

Posted by on Sep 14, 2010

Most of you know I’ve been doing these workshops and seminars on social media marketing. You might even know I’m now doing another seminar on October 2nd locally; I’ll be creating my “sticky post” about it soon. I’ve had many people come to me and say “I could never stand in front of others and give a presentation.”

English Speaker
by Fabio Trifoni

I can honestly say that I can see why it would freak people out. One of the issues with blogging is that we all put our thoughts and beliefs out here for the masses, and at some point someone could come along, say something bad about it, and pretty much ruin your day. If that happens in person, it could feel like it’s even worse than blogging.

The fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia, alternates almost yearly as the biggest fear of most people, only supplanted by death. It’s hard for someone like me to believe that people can actually have that much fear of speaking to others, but I guess it could be because there are way more opportunities to speak than there are to die, morbid as that sounds.

I have never had an issue with public speaking. Even as a kid, I could get in front of a room of other kids and do my thing. I’m not really sure how, since I have my periods of being an introvert, and other periods where I’d just rather be hidden and not have to worry about people looking at me. However, I guess those periods where I have to do what I have to do come out, and after all, how could one want to be a public speaker if one couldn’t figure out how to speak in front of others?

So, what are the basics of the art of public speaking? Here are my 5 basics, some of which I’m assuming you’ll have seen elsewhere, and some of which I hope I’m the first one who’s saying it, but I doubt I am.

1. You need to like what you’re talking about. How come you can tell jokes to a group of your friends at a party? Why is it that every kid in the world can learn song lyrics to music they like yet can’t pass a history test? Because you liked the joke when you heard it, or kids liked the song they were listening to. It’s why many guys can quote some of the most obscure sports stats sometimes. If you like what you’re talking about then it’s an easier thing to deal with.

2. You need to know what you’re talking about. Our new friend Patricia knows a lot about lavender, and I hope you’ve visited her blog. If I asked her to talk about RAC audits (don’t ask) she’d be way out of her league. She’d probably sweat and get really nervous and try to do some research, if she even agreed to talk on it at all, but she’d never get comfortable with the topic. The same goes for me and lavender; I know what it is, I like the smell, and I’ve used the oil, but there’s no way I could ever get up and talk about it. If you know your topic, it becomes easier to talk about it.

3. You need to rehearse what you’re talking about. When I’m going to be giving a presentation, I go into the living room and I rehearse. I go there because my wife has four mirrors on one wall, and that gives me the opportunity to practice looking around the room so that when I’m doing it live I’ll remember to do that same thing. Even when I’ve done the couple of webinars and podcasts that I’ve been asked to do, I’ve rehearsed as if I was giving a live presentation in front of others. Even Zig Ziglar, who’s been giving presentations for more than 40 years, says that he rehearses before each speaking engagement, even if he’s speaking on a topic he’s addressed in the past.

4. You’re allowed to have notes or outlines or anything else you need to help you stay on point. Most of the time when I’m giving long presentations, I will have a powerpoint presentation along with me. When I rehearse I always have an outline to work with to make sure I stay on point. When I’m putting on a relatively short presentation, as I did with my Keys To Leadership seminars, I did them without notes, but because I had rehearsed I know what I was going to talk on and only had to memorize the topics. People who come to watch you give a presentation aren’t looking for perfection all the time; they’ve either come for the knowledge or because they like you as a speaker.

5. Remember that the majority of people who are there to see you are not only there to hear what you have to say, but they’re sitting there amazed at how brave you are because they can’t see themselves standing in front of anyone doing what you’re doing. That’s actually the first thing to try to recognize once you’re close to giving a presentation. The difference between a good and bad presentation often comes down to confidence. If a speaker can project an air of confidence, people will be on their side. No one wants to see any speaker fail, especially if one is interested in the topic. Of course, don’t be so overconfident that you forget why people are there in the first place either.

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Way to go Mitch. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Lavenders and organic gardening yeah but you are right don’t even know what you are talking about with the topic you chose to freak me out with lol
Patricia Perth Australia

September 14th, 2010 | 11:10 AM

Glad to give you publicity while making a point, Patricia. And trust me, you don’t want to know what that is; it would hurt your head like it does mine! lol

September 14th, 2010 | 11:43 AM

Public speaking has always been nerve racking for me. Since I believe in facing your fears, I took a public speaking course in college and entered a public speaking contest that my college held. It was one of the most important classes that I took and I think that it should be required for every student in every college. No matter what your profession, most likely you are going to be doing some public speaking in your lifetime.

While public speaking still isn’t easy for me, thanks to that class it is something that I can do. The best thing I took from the class (and also #3 on your list) is practicing the speech beforehand. There is absolutely a difference in the quality of a presentation if you go over it a whole bunch by yourself.

September 14th, 2010 | 2:19 PM

Thanks for the comment, Keith. I agree, rehearsing is a great way to become comfortable with one’s subject, which helps in talking about it later on.

September 14th, 2010 | 5:24 PM

I’m ok in front of many people, but not so great one on one.

I’m pretty much the same with driving- hate getting in the car to go to the corner store but ask me to drive hours to get somewhere, I’m all for it.

September 14th, 2010 | 5:16 PM

You’re funny Carolee. You were fine with me when we met at the Retreat; then again, you had support from your daughter. 🙂

September 14th, 2010 | 5:24 PM

I don’t think I’ve ever done any public speaking in the sense of a presentation but I’ve spoken in front of people semi-publically at things like poetry groups and while there aren’t as many people, it’s probably a similar sort of emotion. You’re kind of having to put yourself on hold yet be in contact with strangers as though they’re people you know. It’s a strange thing!

September 14th, 2010 | 8:51 PM

For sure, Val. I belong to a writer’s group and one of the options we have is to read our concoctions to the group or pass them out and let them read for themselves. Sometimes I’ll ask someone else to read mine out loud so I can hear how it flows. That’s actually weirder than me just reading it myself.

September 15th, 2010 | 8:00 AM

Excellent post, Mitch. It would be great if every public speaker, including teachers, followed the steps you provide. And that’s a good point about no one wanting to see a speaker fail. I’ve been in the audience listening to speakers who were completely unprepared, and I could feel the tension in the people sitting around me. It’s very uncomfortable, and disappointing.

September 14th, 2010 | 8:51 PM

Charles, I’ve seen that often, including once on a podcast where I was sharing the “stage” with another guy. I gave my presentation in 28 minutes, which I was asked to do. The other guy got to 28 minutes and still had half his presentation to go and it had to end. The reviews were crushing for him, and I felt bad, but he needed to prepare.

September 15th, 2010 | 8:01 AM

People that are not exposed to public especially when they were kids have fear in facing the public to talk. Better kids must be exposed more to people while they are kids as they grow they won’t get the feeling of fear.

September 14th, 2010 | 10:36 PM

I don’t know if kids have to get up in front of class to talk about things anymore, but that was common when I was in school. And I remember top students falling apart when they had to do it; kind of an equalizer sometimes.

September 15th, 2010 | 8:02 AM

Nice post. Public speaking generates leadership quality. Most of the time we think to do it but we got negative thoughts in our mind whether i am right or wrong, we start thinking of others opinion about our thoughts. Good post.

September 15th, 2010 | 1:32 AM

Mat, I never thought about it in the “leadership quality” category, but that’s a great point. Great leaders do know how to get in front of others and know how to hold an audience and get them to do what one wants them to do. Great stuff!

September 15th, 2010 | 8:03 AM

I am usually shy to speak with an audience which I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I am the heart of the company and I am very social. But even on TV interviews my voice drop down and it sounds pretty bad on microphone.

September 15th, 2010 | 7:13 AM

Carl, it’s the thing about being judged on the back end that probably makes you uncomfortable. I just don’t care; I create, I get out there and do it, and I hope I communicate my points well.

September 15th, 2010 | 8:04 AM
David from Save On Projectors:

This is very nice post. Generally it is very hard to speak in the between public. Whether however we are so talented but if you don’t have talk activities and courage its worthless. Be a confident and go ahead. Thanks for sharing this post with us.

September 15th, 2010 | 7:38 PM

No problem, David, and thanks for your contribution.

September 16th, 2010 | 12:02 PM

That’s one of my worst fears too, but I guess that I’ll be comfortable to talk in public when I’ll have enough experience. I’ve read that even Steve Jobs practices a lot before giving those famous speeches. So no one really has it, you have to work it out 🙂

September 16th, 2010 | 7:11 AM

Mia, I would disrespect my audience if I didn’t rehearse, even when I know my topic. You’ll be just fine.

September 16th, 2010 | 12:05 PM