Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Speak now or forever hold your peace: five reasons to make a speech today.

microphone avoidWhatever kind of speaker you are, chances are from time to time you’re going to run out of occasions to speak.  School’s out, so high school debaters will rust up.  At Christmas your  calendar of meetings gets thinner. You’ve just had your annual  industry conference so there’s a twelve month breather till the next one.

In the quiet period, don’t let your skills dry up. Here are five reasons to find an excuse – any excuse – to speak in public. Today.

5. Practice

The single most useful thing for you to do as a speaker is stay in practice. Practice keeps your brain in gear and is an opportunity to practice everything you work on. No matter how confident you feel in your own skills, getting out of practice means you risk having to re-learn them.

4. Spontaneity

Speaking today will mean you don’t have a lot of time to prepare. That means what you say will have to be off the cuff and from the heart. There’s no way to get better at spontaneous speaking than speaking spontaneously. It’s not something you can do without doing, regularly. And whether you’re a competitive debater, or speaker facing the impromptu rounds, or a professional who may be called on to introduce a colleague or step in for a presentation, it’s worth feeling comfortable on the spot.

3. Current Affairs knowledge

Making a speech today means you’ll  read  the news or check in on twitter,  just to have something to say, and some  link to make your speech relevant. Knowing what’s happening in the world and  connecting it to what you want to talk about is a skill that all public speakers from all walks of life would do well to hone. You don’t need to be an expert, but just know the headlines. Click on Google News if it’s not already part of your daily routon

2. Getting over the fear

Any fear in public speaking is totally and completely natural. Fear of public speaking is very common, and can affect you even if you’re not somebody who gets stage fright. Many international-standard public speakers can find that by “getting cocky” and falling out of practice, they make their first return-to-stage feel much more daunting than it has to be. Routinely forcing yourself to face an audience means you don’t build them up in your head as a scary hurdle; instead, you face them regularly, and stay practiced at controlling your nerves. Plus, the more positive interactions you can have with an audience, the less likely you are to be afraid of one! It’s the same therapy cognitive therapists use to help people get over a fear of bugs, or heights, or planes. If you encounter the thing a lot of times, and each of those times, nothing goes wrong, you’re not so likely to be afraid!

1. Knowing your voice and your body

“Stage awkwardness” is something you’ll be surprised to encounter if you get rusty. Whereas routine practice keeps your voice and body well-oiled and comfortable on stage, not speaking means when you go back to it, you’ll feel lead-limbed and peculiar on stage. Your hands – which you know perfectly well how to control in daily conversation – will feel like unnatural weights and your voice will be unaccustomed to what you’re asking of it. Feeling like you don’t belong on stage is hard to shake and will make it difficult to get your message across.

What should I make a speech about?

Anything at all! Find an opportunity. Is there a meeting you can open? A lunchtime committee that needs organising? An occasion  that you can make an announcement at? Don’t feel shy about asking – it’s not about hogging the limelight, after all, you want to do the speaking well!

If those aren’t options for you, there’s no reason it has to be that serious: ask your parents or spouse or child to open a dictionary of proverbs and give you a phrase like “the black sheep” or “a stitch in time”, then just riff!

Think of it this way: practice never made anybody worse.

My thanks to EGS for this post.

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Speak For Yourself