The importance of public speaking needs to be considered at the outset. What do we mean when we say that?
What is public speaking? It could mean talking aloud to another person – purely conversational, that is.
Would you consider that to be public speaking? Maybe not.
Carpenters bend wood. Fletchers craft arrows.
Wise men fashion themselves.
It could mean talking to a group of friends informally. Would you consider that to be public speaking? Maybe not.
It could mean being required to participate in a formal meeting seated around the table at work.
Would you consider that to be public speaking? Some people might.
It could mean standing up in front of a group of work colleagues and making a formal presentation.
A larger group of people might be inclined to consider that as public speaking.
It could mean making an after dinner speech, proposing a toast or speaking from a public platform.
Most people would probably consider that to be public speaking.
It is quite important to know where to start, isn’t it? I am not going to tell you what is public speaking and what is not.
Each of the circumstances I have described is important in the sense that it is important for you to be able to communicate at each level, for that is what speaking is: an oral level of communication.
Each of those circumstances becomes more important to you as the communicator if you have difficulty with it.
Perhaps you are a great public speaker already, full of confidence, able to speak to any audience.
But I guess if that were the case you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.
I suspect you are probably OK talking one to one with a friend and maybe even talking in a group.
Perhaps you lack a little confidence when it comes to making formal presentations and dread the idea of standing up and addressing an audience.
Why do you think that is? What is it that makes your cheeks flushed, your throat dry and your voice disappear down the back of your throat when you rise to speak? Is it lack of preparation?
Perhaps. Is it self-consciousness? That is to say, are you afraid of looking a fool if it all goes wrong? Perhaps it is both.
You may be under the impression that most others are better public speakers than you are. That would be wrong.
Have you tried once or twice and considered yourself to be a failure? And then given up thinking to yourself, “I will never put myself through that again”?
Did you give up after a couple of driving lessons? Or attempts at riding a bicycle? Or attempts to swim? Or a thousand other things? I doubt it very much.
Why is public speaking important? There is something about the importance of public speaking that messes with the head, and it seems to be fear of making yourself look silly.
Look at it the other way round. How often have you sat in an audience and listened to somebody else speak?
I bet you haven’t been sitting there waiting for him or her to make a mistake, prepared to laugh at the first opportunity, have you?
No, of course not. In fact, if the speaker appears to be struggling I bet that inwardly you are hoping that he will recover and make a good job of it.
You don’t wish to share in the speaker’s embarrassment, do you?
So next time it falls to you to speak publicly, remember that. Almost everyone is on your side.
As someone who has made a living for many years by speaking in public as an advocate in courts, tribunals and at meetings, I can tell you that the only way to get better at it is to do it ... and do it ... and do it.
I remember my first case was before a District Judge sitting in chambers. It seems so silly now. The appointment with the judge was for five or ten minutes.
The only people present were my opponent, the District Judge and myself. When the case was called we were to go into chambers where the judge would be sitting at the head of a long table.
We would then take our places, one either side of him. I would make a brief application, my opponent would respond, I might have a short right of reply and the judge would decide the application.
As we stood outside the judge’s chambers and the time drew near for the case to be called, I could feel the butterflies building.
Then, all of a sudden, the doors opened and the usher announced the case.
My immediate reaction was to turn and flee down the court corridor as fast as I could run without looking behind me. Fortunately, I didn’t succumb to that reaction.
I went in, said good morning to the judge, opened my notebook and more or less read verbatim the application I had prepared.
It certainly wasn’t the greatest piece of advocacy I have ever performed, but it was a start – and the judge gave me my order.
Since then I have had many conversations with colleagues, many of whom have become distinguished and respected advocates, and most of them had a similar reaction when they came to conduct their first case.
It is not unusual. The only difference between successful and unsuccessful public speakers is that the successful speakers make themselves do it.
We have all seen people we consider to be quite hopeless at public speaking – and most of them have been politicians for years – but they shrug it off and keep doing it.
They still manage to get their message across and (remarkably you may think) they still get re-elected.
A few brief tips if you have to speak in public. If you suddenly find yourself being called upon to respond to a toast or presentation in public, try to note a few points on a paper napkin or menu or something of the sort.
Just make them pointers. Keep it short. Stand up, speak up and sit down. Those sorts of speeches are always well received and appreciated.
If it is expected to be a little more formal and you have notice, then prepare it carefully. First of all, write the whole thing out but do not write it like an essay. Write it in a conversational style. Start sentences with And and But.
Play it over in your mind and listen to yourself saying it. Does it sound as if you are reading a prepared essay? Or does it sound as if you are talking to your audience?
Don’t permit it to be stilted. Cut out unnecessary words. Again, be simple and natural. If you try to be a clever dick, that is how it will sound.
Reduce your notes as much as possible. If you are confident you can do without them, that is even better because you will speak more naturally.
We have a tendency not to trust ourselves, but when we do we perform much better. (You might also like to read another page on this website about Effective Public Speaking).
Make a large colourful picture in your mind’s eye. See yourself standing up and speaking confidently to your audience.
See the look of appreciation on their faces and hear the applause.
Just before you stand, take a couple of deep breaths and compose yourself.
As you go to say those first words, make sure you use your diaphragm and project the words from behind your front teeth – not the back of your throat.
If you do that, your words will soar and you will not need a microphone.
Imagine the feeling of satisfaction that will overcome you when you resume your seat.
Imagine other things you thought you might like to try that you thought you couldn’t do. Perhaps you might like to try singing next!
Gain FREE access to my self-confidence video
To gain free access to my self-confidence video enter your email address and first name in the box below. This will also keep you up-to-date with my free newsletter Inspirations.
As a bonus for subscribing you'll receive the first three chapters of my book Towards Success, where you can learn more about NLP techniques, from Anchors to Modelling, and my 50 favourite inspirational quotations.
Articles on HYPNOSIS:
Articles about THE SECRET of:
Articles about COACHING:
Articles on GENIUS and MIND POWERS:
Articles about MEMORY:
Articles about RELATIONSHIPS:
Articles on WEALTH:
Articles on WEIGHT LOSS:
Articles on SECRET and INSPIRATIONAL TEACHERS:
Real Women of Genius Articles:
Real Men of Genius Articles: