Public stpeaking is described as the greatest and most common fear of today. In fact, research shows 74 percent of Americans suffer from speech anxiety, while 41 percent of the world’s population is terrified of speaking appointtments.
Basically, everyone is scared of public speaking — but why?
People are afraid of public speaking because they don’t know the true extent of what public speaking is. Public speaking is nothing more than a simple conversation with multiple people — and it is definitely not a performance. Great speakers confer they bring people together and get them to focus on a specific topic.
Stepping up on stage to give a speech can be quite terrifying. It is especially nerve-wracking for those who weren’t given opportunities to practice public speaking or taught rhetorical skills in school.
Of course — with finals creeping up — many professors expect students to speak about their projects in front of the class.
No matter the university or the major, public speaking is always universally loathed. Speaking in front of a large audience is almost always mandatory — and almost always as scary.
To help fellow students out for finals week, here are four techniques that you can use to effectively increase your public speaking skills:
TALK WITH YOUR HANDS AND NOT JUST YOUR MOUTH
When you see someone, what part of the body do you look at first? Many people will say the face, eyes or mouth. But research shows we actually look at their hands. This dates back to prehistoric times — the instinct comes from the desire to see if an approaching caveman is either a friend or foe.
When we can’t see someone’s hands, it can get a bit uncomfortable because it can be harder to decipher their intentions. Hand gestures play a significant role in speaking and we often use them to emphasize certain aspects of our speech. For example, if you are talking about certain numbers or amounts of something, you could demonstrate that number with your fingers. Interestingly enough, when people think of the word “communication,” they often register it with spoken language — which only makes up 7 percent of communication. This leaves out the 93 percent that is nonverbal, and the nonverbal component is made with 55 percent body language and 38 percent tone of voice. In short, hand gestures aid intention and trust, as well as explanation. It also shows confidence, as hand gestures prove to the audience that you know your material so well that you can effectively communicate in two different languages.
USE THE RULE OF THREES
Three is the magic number in rhetorics. Think of the saying “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” By putting things in three, it makes the phrase sound more compelling, more convincing and more credible — and we can actually find the rule of three everywhere. Even William Shakespeare used the rule of threes while writing “Romeo and Juliet”: “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”
You can also put your sentences in three. By putting three repetitive sentences together, you make your point sound more passionate. Use this famous Winston Churchill quote for reference: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight on the field and on the streets.” All great speakers use the rule of threes to make their speech both compelling and engaging to audiences.
WARM UP YOUR VOICE
Warming up your voice is important before giving a speech or presentation. Similar to a car, our voices don’t work as well without being warmed up first. Follow these vocal warm-up exercises to warm up your voice:
First, stand up and loudly inhale and exhale — swinging both your arms up and down along with your breathing.
Second, warm up your lips by repeating “ba, ba, ba,” loudly for about 30 seconds.
Third, repeat “la, la, la” loudly for 30 seconds, as this will help stretch out your tongue.
Finally, repeatedly say “wee” and “aww” simultaneously like a police siren — the “wee” in a high pitch and the “aww” in a low pitch.
Speaking with a lower voice will also make you sound credible and memorable. To locate your deep voice, speak from your chest and not your nose. A lower and deeper voice is often associated with power and authority.
USE SIMPLE LANGUAGE
Simple language can be easily interpreted and understood by all. Most people will throw out so much data and content trying to prove that they’re intelligent, but using those big and fancy words only make it more complicated to the recipient. In fact, research shows that using fancy academic-sounding words makes people think you’re less intelligent — and frankly, quite phony. Participants found that the more they understood what was being said, the more intelligent they considered the message.
When giving a presentation, one should also use a more inclusive conversational language. For example, make sure not to use step-by-step processes such as “step one, step two and step three,” — you’re not writing a research paper, don’t bore the audience. Instead, use inclusive language like “today we are going to cover this, this and that.” Use more words like “we,” “me,” “us,” and “I” — conversational language aims to target the audience and directly addresses them. Make your speech sound like a conversation and not a textbook — remember, a good speech is like a good conversation. Even though the audience might not be speaking, there’s still nonverbal communication they’re sending — facial expressions, nods, eye contact and body language.