The Power of Public Speaking

What exactly is public speaking?

Is it standing in front of an audience? Addressing a team in a meeting? Speaking to a few people on the bus?

Yes to all of the above. When people think of public speaking, they often look to key moments in time, like Martin Luther King addressing the crowds with the famous ‘I have a dream,’ speech. They think of big crowds, stirring words and passion.

Public speaking does not exclusively refer to giving speeches in front of thousands of people. There are times every day when we need to use our voice to be heard. What about speaking in the Parish Council Meeting? How about standing in front of the office or your boss to deliver a presentation? Or speaking to a group of people with something you have a passion about.

It’s all classed as public speaking.

Some years ago, a survey was conducted by Chapman University on American Fears amongst the business community, where participants were asked to list their fears.

Popular answers included bugs, snakes, drowning and heights, but at the top of the list was public speaking! The majority of respondents would rather die drowning than stand in front of an audience.

Why are people so afraid of something they do every day, speak? For many, the mind plays on their insecurities, and drowns out any confidence by flooding their head with worst case scenarios all of which result in utter embarrassment. It’s normal, most people feel the same way when they first step up to speak - whatever the scenario. But let me put your mind at ease.

Put things into perspective - ultimately whatever happens up there once you start speaking, you are not going to die - even if your heart rate, sweaty palms and adrenaline rush might make it feel like you will.

Everyone gets nervous, but nerves can be controlled and trained. In fact, nerves can be a good thing if you focus the nervous energy and direct it to your enthusiasm.

Here are some top tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking

  1. First and probably the most important - Breathe! Pause, think and then start speaking.

  2. Prepare - make sure you know what you are going to speak about.

  3. Practice - write it down in note form, not word for word as it becomes more scripted this way. Bear in mind that only you know what you are going to say, the audience doesn’t, so they won’t know if you’ve forgotten something. Just say whatever you’re saying with passion and conviction.

  4. Relax - the whole audience is willing you to do well and they want to hear what you have to say, take comfort and strength in that. No-one ever went to see a speaker and thought 'I hope the next speaker is rubbish' - they want you to do well.

If you really want to practice the art of public speaking, join a Toastmasters meeting and see how others manage their nerves, construct well written speeches, and deliver confidently.

It’s a fun, friendly, and safe environment to practice in, so you can develop the skills that you can then apply across work, home and daily life. Everyone has a voice, and the right to use it, but to be a good communicator takes practice. Put the work in and you’ll get great results!

Join us as a guest at a meeting to find out how it can help you. We meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

Phil Heath

Treasurer and Found Member of Strictly Speaking Harrogate Toastmasters

About Phil

Phil Heath – DTM As a trainer/consultant in International Standards, Phil visited many countries in the last few years. Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine, every time he left the country there was a riot, a bombing, or an invasion! Phil joined Toastmasters in 2003 and has the honour of being a twice Distinguished Toastmaster. Before Phil became a professional speaker he was a trainer and sales consultant for many companies. As philthefunnel he now coaches organisations and individuals in the art of presentations with a focus on confident communication.

Phil Heath – Creating Confidence with Communication

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