Fear of public speaking is the fear a person experiences when delivering or is preparing to give a speech to an audience. The fear of public speaking has always been my problem since my tender age. I have always been nervous whenever I am to make a public speech. The concern has still grown whenever I am to address any group, be it my classmates, peers or even those younger than me. However, I have always admired several eloquent public speakers on the television or other sectors of the social life, though I could not learn from them on how to manage myself in addressing a general audience.
Consequently, the whole of my childhood even at school, I ensured that I avoided all the situations that would put me in the limelight of making a public speech. My first time of making a presentation was during a class presentation which was mandatory as a required by the course outline. That was the hardest moment of my life as my voice, hands and barely the whole body shook in fright. At some point, I would let the slideshow without commenting during the PowerPoint presentation. Actually, unlike the other performances from my classmates, I had no comment or questions. I scored poorly from the performance.
Speech anxiety which can also get referred to as communication apprehension is the fear of public speaking, a behavioural problem that affects me to date. The primary cause is the fear of being analyzed, studied and got assessed by the audience. In other words, this fear which comes about because of the anxiety of making a public speech is brought by the natural feelings of not being successful in satisfying the anticipations of my audience. My abilities as the speaker perceived by the audience may not match the audience expectations.
The public speaking problem has always caused me both physical and psychological symptoms. Some of the physical difficulties include increased sweating, increased breathing rate, rapid heartbeat, shaking of body parts, upset stomach, flushing, and change in voice. Psychological symptoms comprise of manifestation of uncertainty, feeling of fear, humiliation and generally the lack of control of the whole audience. Furthermore, during the speech-making, I would develop the panic that would make my audience impervious to my message and ultimately even forget the content of my speech. Accordingly, after finding the cause of my poor skills in public speaking, I sought to find solutions that I would use actually to improve my public speaking skills.
Discovering the solutions was of vital importance as my profession of interest was broadcast journalism which required excellent skills in speech making. Moreover, I comprehended that the fear of public speaking and social life not only diminished my abilities to achieve my goals but also diminished my ability to appreciate life. Therefore, I decided to change, acquire methods and most importantly, to overcome my fear of public speaking. My decision prompted me to enrol in a short course to learn the art of speaking professionally in public. Subsequently, in my quest, I learned a variety of skills in coping with my behavioural problem ranging from skills before making the speech, during the speech and after making the statement.
Before the Speech (Speech Preparation)
Isolation of the probable cause of nervousness: It is of great importance for any public speaker to find out the primary source of his or her agitation. This is what I came to discover. The best way of accomplishing this is by making a deductive list of things which are perceived to make someone nervous. This method is specifically helpful in pinpointing of problems that may need to get refined further.
Selection of subject: Another critical solution that I realized is the subject selection. The capacity to properly select an item to present would help in coping with the anxiety and fear. During the choice, it is advisable to choose a topic that you are comfortable with and one that you as the speaker is interested. For these reasons, the speaker finds it easy to present his or her ideas both understandably and enthusiastically.
Proper preparation before making the speech: In my perspective and case, I believe that for a presentation that I have prepared on my own and was well conversant with the content, it would be easy to present without much preparation. However, some developments are necessary apart from the mastery of the material. Developing the correct body language, maintaining eye contact, and using the allocated time for speech are the different facets of speech preparation.
Maximizing on the introduction and conclusion of the speech: It is essential for a public speaker to memorize the introduction and conclusion of his or her address. This is because of the anxiety and fear of making public discourse usually end a few minutes after the presentation. Additionally, the opening and closing remarks should be able to capture the concentration of the listeners.
Avoiding memorization of the full speech: It is more productive to prepare speaker notes instead. This is where the audience can refer to during the speech. Through this way, the speaker gets rid of disorientation during the presentation by organizing his or her thought and ideas.
Surveillance of the venue and the audience: Getting to know your audience regarding their age and size helps a lot during the presentation. Audience identification helps the speaker to formulate specific content that will fit the group. Moreover, checking on the venue gives the speaker time to familiarize with the technology that would be used during the event. The previous visit helps to make improvements in certain areas.
Proper practice in timing and delivery of speech: It helps the speaker to make the quality presentation without exceeding the set time parameters. Training improves the audience in finding ways of overcoming instants of failed memory or dealing with errors during presentations.
Setting realistic expectations: Everyone is bound to make a mistake since no one is perfect. Consequently, it is useful to set realistic goals and to focus on realistic targets.
During the Speech
Certain principles are essential for the effective delivery of the speech. These principles may include:
- Dressing comfortably and appropriately for the occasion. The manner in which a speaker presents him/herself through dressing influences his relationship with the audience. It is of benefit, therefore, that the speaker puts on appropriate attire to the type of event. Besides, a proper outfit creates freedom of movement and as such the speaker is comfortable and confident in the presentation is boosted.
- Relaxation technique: It is recommended that the speaker have relaxation methods to help them in focusing on the task they have. Some of the relaxation techniques include having deep breathed, visualization, contraction and relaxation of the muscles.
- Body language: It is vital for the speaker to have control of the body gestures throughout the presentation. Body language helps in suppressing anxiety. Consequently, acting confidently makes the audience to give positive feedback.
- Use of visual aids: The visual aids help with the guidance of the audience during the presentation. Further, it reinforces the key points, capture their concentration and enhance retention of the message delivered.
After the Speech
In case the presentation was not proficient to the audience, the speaker should not incline too much on the way he/she behaved during delivery of the speech. The best way of doing away with anxiety is by focusing on the impact you have made on the audience. Further, engaging in positive talks with friends helps in suppressing anxiety.
The positive dialogues help in assuring the presenter of his capabilities. However, the central theme of the discussion should not be on the speech presentation. The reduction of the fear of public speaking by the numerous techniques and principles contribute to constructive outlooks and more successful public speaking presentations. On a personal level, The course has been beneficial because of the knowledge gained in public speaking. Though I am in novice period, I have come to discover that by applying the strategies outlined herein, I am gaining confidence while addressing my peers as well as making academic presentations.
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