Q: How do I manage fear, apprehension, stage fright, and speech anxiety?
A: Gradually. These are very usual situations even for experienced speakers. Increased nervousness and rapid heartbeat before a speech are the coping mechanisms of the body. The more experienced you become, the better prepared you will be. Every one of us experiences this so it is good to breathe out the accumulated carbon dioxide in your lungs and breathe deeply before you begin your speech. Beginning your speech slowly helps decrease nervousness.
Q: How do I capture and maintain the listener’s attention and interest?
A: Remember the following:
Establish eye contact with the audience.
Do not talk if someone is walking down the aisle or if there is audience movement.
Make appropriate pauses for the audience to catch their breath.
Use interesting and powerful visual aids.
Talk from personal experience and tell stories.
Make your speech concise.
Q: How do I know when the listeners are bored and inattentive?
A: Observe the following:
A lot of listeners sit with their arms folded.
Vacant looks – no smiles or nodding of the head.
Most of the people are yawning.
Polite coughs which are more than usual.
Nonverbal gestures like audience frequently looking at their watches, biting their nails, shuffling their feet, looking at each other, and worse, starting to exit the venue.
Q: How do I develop my self-confidence?
A: Practice. Practice is the key. Look for every chance to give a speech. The more you face the audience, the more you will develop self-confidence. Begin with very short speeches that last three to four minutes. Always bear in mind that a short speech can barely go wrong. Impromptu speeches make good practice. Concentrate and be natural. Do not try to pretend to be someone else. Master your topic. Believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.
Q: How much information must I gather for a speech?
A: Your experience is your guide. Some need 60 minutes of information for a 5-minute speech. You will have to read widely. At times you have to conduct some research. The most important information is your personal experience.
Q: Can I memorize a speech?
A: Yes, you can. But don’t. Never memorize a speech. You are bound to miss out a line or two and worse, your speech will likely be insincere. Your listeners will discover anyway. Memorizing stops you from being natural. If you like, you may memorize a specific poem or a memorable quote.
Q: Can I read a speech?
A: Yes, you can. But don’t. That is the best technique to bore a listener. The only instance you read a speech is when you do it on behalf of someone else. Even when you do that, make it brief or summarize it. At the end of the summary, give out the entire speech in the form of a handout. The written language and the spoken language are different forms of expression. What is beautifully written may not sound beautiful when it is spoken.
Q: Can I use notes during a speech?
A: Yes, you can. But be sure that they don’t appear bulky. The worst thing a speaker can do is to pull out pages and pages of notes before a speech. Preparing 3” x 5” index cards is all right. Be sure your entire speech does not go beyond seven cards. A single sheet of paper with an outline of your speech is still the best. Be sure the letters on that single sheet are big enough to read.
Q: How do I develop my speech?
A: Never talk about one idea too long. If you have three ideas, allot equal time to each. The transition from one idea to the next must be smooth. Listeners must not wait too long for the next idea.
Q: During an open forum, what do I do when a person gives a speech rather than a question?
A: It is your responsibility to interrupt and say, “Excuse me, what exactly is your question?”
Q: What do I do when I get a hostile question?
A: Be cool. Be courteous and disagree with a smile by saying, “Perhaps I was not clear.” or “It’s possible you misunderstood.”
Q: What do I do when someone has many questions in one question?
A: Answer them one by one and begin with the easiest.
Take time out to listen to as many speeches as possible. A good listener is a successful communicator. Don’t forget to take down notes when you listen to these speeches.
Recognize speeches that you like and those you can’t stand. Examine the speeches you like, and there you will learn useful and helpful tips to develop your speech. Examine the speeches you dislike, and there you will learn what you should prevent.
Communication is as greatly a manner of listening as it is of speaking.