Did you know that 4 out of 5 people have a fear of public speaking?
If you’re one of them, then keep reading because public speaking is such an important part of DECA.
Between roleplays and even just interacting with your fellow members at your chapter, learning to properly speak in public is a necessity.
The biggest secret to conquering your fear of public speaking is knowing what to do while you speak. Your delivery matters much more than your content.
Research suggests that effective presentations are 55% non-verbal communication, 38% your voice, and only 7% your content.
Let’s take advantage of that statistic.
Find A Focal Point
Whenever I did theatre, I always looked at the exit sign. I had a focal point and I stuck to it.
Wait??? Do I really mean that you can look at no one and still give an enthralling speech?
Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
First off, don’t get into a staring contest with the exit sign. That’s not the point.
By looking above people, they think you’re looking at them. You don’t actually have to make direct eye contact.
You can also look at someone’s forehead. It’s close enough to their eyes where they can’t tell the difference.
When you concentrate on a focal point, you feel like you’re speaking to the focal point and not the other people in the room. This can reduce your social anxiety.
Focus On Your Audience
Instead of focusing on yourself and giving the speech itself, think about the audience.
Again, this is a mindset switch.
Make the goal of the speech geared toward their benefit.
If you include facts and figures in your speech, the audience is 20% more likely to retain the information in your speech.
Remember, they want you to succeed and do well, so think of them as a cheerleader and not a critic.
Focus on giving them the best experience to cheer about. If you screw up a line or phrase in your speech, don’t make it obvious.
Don’t curse or say “I’m sorry.” Simply gather your thoughts and continue.
You should be the only one aware of your mistakes. Worry about them at the end of the day. Don’t let them ruin your focus or positive outlook.
Focus on providing them value. When you do, they will forgive you for any errors you made.
At the end of the day, we’re all human. We make mistakes.
Just make sure the audience can understand you.
Pacing, Diction, And Enunciation
If you speak really quickly, no one will understand you. If you speak really slowly, everyone will get bored and start to check their phones. You have to find the balance with your pacing. Speaking too quickly is a common indication of nervous energy. Take deep breaths from the beginning to ground you.
When I started to learn Spanish, I could never understand the native speakers from other countries. I always thought they spoke too quickly. The truth of the matter is that they were speaking at a normal pace. I just couldn’t keep up.
Sometimes, when you present a speech, your content may seem like another language to your audience.
Since you want to focus on your audience, you need to make sure that they understand your speech. Whenever you speak, always speak slower than you would with your friends. Believe it or not, your speech isn’t a DVR recording that can be rewound if they didn’t get it the first time.
Speak slow enough for the person in the back of the room to understand.
In addition to pacing, you also need to remember diction and enunciation. Now that you’re speaking slower, you need to take that extra time to make sure your message is communicated. Practice a good tongue twister and say it 5 times fast if you have to. Clear articulation is critical to comprehension. You can practice saying that if you want 🙂
Make sure that you end your words with whatever consonants and vowels are there. If you have an accent–which, we all do–then make sure your accent doesn’t impede your diction. I know that this is more of the technical aspects of speaking, but this is the foundation for true success in public speaking.
Engage With Your Audience
Don’t forget about this group of people!
Since your speech isn’t about you and instead, their benefit, it’s important to make the audience an integral part of your speech’s success.
If you don’t ask for audience participation, your engagement drops by 14%.
That’s a staggering amount that can be solved so simply.
I know that asking for audience participation means digressing from your speech, but it will really benefit your audience and what they take out of it.
Time for another mindset switch.
Instead of bracing yourself for the unknown by inviting the audience to participate, think about how you will be able to speak less and have fewer chances of screwing up.
Something as simple as a question and answer session can take a chunk of time out of your speech and allow the audience to gain more value.
You are the expert, so you should be able to answer any question that comes your way.
Just don’t forget about practicing your answers to what you think the common questions will be.
In this article, we discussed the 4 critical components of public speaking that you have to remember in the process. They are:
- Find a focal point
- Focus on your audience
- Pacing, diction, and enunciation
- Engage with your audience
So, which element do you need the most help with? Comment below so we can help you overcome your fear of public speaking!