Public Speaking without the Fear

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 3, 2009 | Go to article overview

Public Speaking without the Fear


Byline: Kate Tsubata, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

I just learned that 75 percent of people have glossophobia, the fear of speaking in public - and many rank it as more frightening than death.

I speak publicly all the time, and I have trained hundreds of kids to be effective and interesting speakers. Home-schooled students usually are not encumbered with some of the intimidating experiences of traditional classrooms, but learning to speak in front of a group requires skill building.

Here are some methods I find useful:

* Start with practicing short statements with a clear purpose: making an announcement, welcoming people to something, thanking someone for some action. Use the who, what, when, where, why and how structure. The idea is to engage the audience quickly, give them vital information and get a response that indicates they understood.

* Students can practice more easily in a circle. The physical setup is less daunting, and they can feel embraced and supported by having people next to them.

* Encourage students to look audience members in the eyes, catching various people's facial expressions and responding naturally.

* Share the power of the question. Have students practice asking their audience something that elicits a response: Who here likes ice cream (or skateboarding, or music, or what have you)? Show them how to wait for the response, look around the room and acknowledge those who respond. Interaction transforms the speech into a natural conversation.

* Limit - or eliminate - written notes. Cue cards become crutches that end up distracting the speaker. If notes must be used, teach the student to simply lay them down on the podium or table and use them only to prod the memory if absolutely necessary.

* Teach students to make mental notes and to speak naturally based on those. Teach them tricks such as creating unforgettable mental pictures as memory joggers. (Discourage memorizing the speech verbatim. It becomes dry, boring and sing-song-ish.)

The ideal is to know what they want to say and be able to say it in a fresh way for that particular audience.

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