23 February 2021

Public Speaking Series: Conquering Your Fears

Publicly inserting ourselves in front of a crowd has become an everyday venture — even if it’s just for several pairs of eyeballs over our webcam, so much so that we forget its essentialness in our lives. It’s no longer limited to on-stage performances or class presentations but our job interviews and pitching new ideas to your colleagues. 

Regardless of the scenario, it instills a sense of confidence, makes you think on your feet, and even scores you better social skills. Trust me. It isn’t a unique talent limited to lucky individuals. It’s a life skill everyone can adopt given the right approach and method. 

Yet not all of us entertain the idea of positing ourselves in front of an audience and baring our souls. I ALWAYS feel like burying my head in sand every time I take centre stage, even after years of public speaking experience. But when it comes to it, I swallow back my lump(s) of fear and feign the most confident facial expression. Why? 

I’d rather put my game face on and give my best than be a deer in the headlights. In the end, I always leave with a sense of relief, fear still ringing, but thrilled that somehow I managed to pull through. Rest assured, it’s not hard to conquer your fears as long as you remain optimismistic or in my case, several years of fumbling, stutters, and a GREAT deal of optimism — but hey, I got there and so can you! 

Before we dive into the tips and tricks that would aid your Greta Thunberg transformation, it’s important to first understand how to conquer your fears:

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Practice Doesn’t Always Make Perfect

Okay, hear me out. 

The art of public speaking isn’t about perfect oration, it’s about figuring out how to win over your audience. That’s not to say that continued practice won’t help you improve but it’s redundant when all you do is recite and anticipate reactions. Even if you practice your speech till you’re blue in the face, it doesn’t mean you’ve achieved the heights of a good public speaker. 

It’s one thing to put together a speech and recite it to a number of people, but another to keep their attention throughout the span of your public display. Bringing us to our next point — which areas do you lack in? And where do you shine?

Know Your Highs and Lows

This is a VERY important aspect when trying to sell yourself to an audience. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What areas do you need more work on and where do you excel? Some of us have good content to share but display poor body language and posture, ultimately putting our popularity levels down. On the flip side, some of us check all the boxes of great interactive skills but manage to spew out utter nonsense at the end. 

Be sure to maintain the balance by figuring out what areas you lack in and how to improve on them. All of us have weak spots but honing them helps heal them. And if you crash and burn a little in the beginning, that’s okay because you know exactly what you need to change and what tricks you need to drop for the next try.

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Do Your Research - and Always Proof-Read

Facts and stats keep your content real and relevant. You need jarring, impactful information that could shock or shape your audiences’ minds, so place enough time and effort into researching and concocting your envisioned speech. While you’ll need to deliver the truth, how you choose to tell it is essential. Pour over well-known scripts and written works and observe how they fuse and balance fact and flamboyance. That’s how you’ll find your style and have a rough blueprint of how to organise your thoughts and statistics in a clear and concise manner.

If there are no prompts given beforehand, then the ball’s in your court! You can talk about absolutely anything that strikes your fancy, as long as it fits the criteria of being relevant in the modern world, important in the current climate, engaging to audiences, and also fits your interest bill. Take a gamble and put yourself out there!

Find Your Unique Selling Point

Whether it’s in the speech delivery or tone, every world-renowned public speaker has their own style and charm. 

Martin Luther King Jr. stuck to a sing-songy, poetic form of speech delivery with impactful sentences that resonated with anyone listening. Adolf Hitler was a master orator, whose words flowed with passion and command — using hand gestures and emotive language. Both speakers led followers who truly believed in their words that made a difference and changed history — one for good and one for the terribly bad.

A selling point — be it the content, tone, language, or even mannerisms, play critical roles in swaying your audience. Some of us like to insert humour or a comedic line or two in between to ease any tension and capture attention. Some prefer a soulful approach, tender and intimate words, and low voices. What makes you stand out? It all depends on the three C’s.

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The 3 Big C’s

Content: Always make sure your content is up to mark and makes an impact. You want to charm your audience in the span of time you’re speaking but also want to leave a positive impression that will linger in their memory for a while. The level of quality will either make or break your public speaking stint so it's best you get on board the correct train.

Context: This ties in and extends from content. It’s important to interpret where and when you’re delivering the speech and how significant it is in winning over your audience. Consider aspects like where and when you’re holding the speech, the overlaying topic is, and the direction your speech needs to follow. It puts your speech into perspective and thinks of the bigger picture, beyond fancy words and sentences.

Conveyance: Conveyance of information works hand-in-hand with your ability to speak in front of a crowd and hold your own. Misconceptions like ‘imagining your audience naked or in their underwear’ are literally the worst advice for any beginner presenting themselves in front of a crowd. A strong delivery relies on how much faith you have in your work. Even when it’s filled with cracks or falling to pieces, your confidence oozed will sway anyone watching. After all, your pen may be your sword, but your smiles and confidence will send the final blow.

With the understanding of how you can conquer your fears of public speaking and ways to deliver a speech according to your own style, you’re now ready for the next step — perfecting your body language!

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Karen Grace Prince is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication (Honours) at Taylor's University. She is also the Secretary for Taylor's Model United Nations Club (TLMUN).

Karen Grace Prince
Guest Contributor