By Chanda Temple
If your hands get sweaty and your mouth gets dry before you have to talk before a crowd, you may want to call on Janice Ward.
She’s a Birmingham, Ala. speaking coach and college communications instructor, trained in helping people lose their fear of public speaking.
On Thursday, Sept. 25, she will host the “Fearless Public Speaking” seminar from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at The Club, 1 Robert S. Smith Drive in Birmingham. Early registration is $50 at http://www.wardspeaks.com. On-site registration is $69. Breakfast, which is included, starts at 8 a.m.
Ward said the workshop is for novice speakers, CEOs, aspiring politicians, nonprofit professionals, business owners, the clergy, college students and anyone interested in conquering speech anxiety. She said the session will help participants develop skills to overcome their stage fright and become better speakers and presenters.
“Fifty percent of adults are afraid to speak publicly. They would rather do other things,” Ward said. “I think if people have the opportunities to learn the right techniques, they’ll overcome their anxiety.”
Here are six of her tips on public speaking:
Use your voice and gestures
You may have written the best speech, but if you deliver it like you are reading a novel, you’ve lost your audience. Use your voice. Know when to use the right gestures to stress a point. If you tell the crowd you are happy to be there, does your body say that?
Ward said that President Ronald Regan had a way of making people feel like he was talking to them. It was his delivery. It gave his speech life.
Don’t drink caffeine before you have to speak. If you are already anxious, it could feed your anxiety. Drink plenty of water and take deep, slow breaths before you approach the podium. People tend to stop breathing when they are nervous about making a speech. You must have enough breath to push out your words.
The most common public speaking mistake people make is being unprepared. Their thoughts are not organized. They don’t practice what they are going to say.They may not ask about the target audience. If a person must make an impromptu speech, he or she fails to take a few seconds in their mind to focus on what they will say.
Take note of good orators
“I like Bill Clinton,” Ward said. “He’s a master at public speaking. Bill Clinton has a way of being able to ad lib. It seems to come natural to him.”
“I like Oprah. She speaks with a lot of passion,” Ward said. “When she’s talking,… she gives the audience something they can use.”
Don’t read your speech
Ward said that a bad speaker is someone who reads their speech or attempts to memorize it and then forgets it. They apologize throughout the whole speech about losing their place or they appear nervous. Plus, don’t say, “I’m not a good public speaker.” The audience doesn’t know that. Now that you’ve said it, you’ve put that thought into their head so now they’ll look to see just how bad you really are.
Bad speakers fail to connect with the audience, avoid eye contact and don’t engage the audience. Speakers fail when they make the speech all about them instead of the audience, Ward said.
Take note of your movement and length of speech
If it’s appropriate, move around the room. It helps the audience move with you and your speech. If you are nervous, don’t put your hands in your pockets and jingle car keys or coins. Also, avoid playing with your hair or jewelry.
Don’t make your speech too long. Most audiences remember what you said at the beginning and at the end. If you say, “The last point I want to make is XYZ,” make it. Don’t make your closing remarks and then come back and add something to it. The audience will say, “Wait a minute, you already said you were about to finish.”
For more information, contact Ward at 205-335-8607 or email her at email@example.com.
Chanda Temple is a former reporter now working in public relations. She blogs about being better in business and more at http://www.chandatemplewrites.com. Follow her on Twitter at @chandatemple. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.