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Public Speaking Training

Training someone to speak in front of a group of people is a multi-faceted endeavor. Because all eyes are focused on the speaker, everything he does is magnified. Every facial expression, each body movement and posture, a change in vocal intonation, and each pronounced nervous tic, all combine to telegraph the speaker’s nervousness and insecurity. And these examples are just the physical parts of speaking in public. The style of a presentation counts a great deal, but the content counts even more.

Public speaking training has to address two main areas; the first area is the physical as pointed out above. The second area concerns the message to be delivered and how best to get that across to the audience. To combat nervousness, relaxation techniques are the best ways to calm oneself before and during the speech. Any of a number of breathing exercises will help relax one immediately before the speech so that one can concentrate on the words rather than thinking about how one looks or acts. Some speakers find that the urge to fiddle with parts of their clothing (buttons, sleeves, tie) and the habit of touching their face or hair are unusually difficult to overcome. Public speaking training practice advocates working in front of a mirror to focus on the physical movements during the speech. This type of practice helps to halt these unnecessary body movements. As a way to visualize one’s work, practicing in a mirror is a valuable aid to hone one’s delivery.

Some coaches advise their clients to see themselves as an actor in a movie in order to distance them from their nervousness. This allows one to act in an entirely different mode than the norm. Other techniques may include speaking to one person or group (although eye contact with others may suffer) or imagining the audience sitting in their underwear (as Winston Churchill was said to do.) Familiarity with the venue helps to relax the speaker as well. One can stand or sit where the audience will be in order to get some realistic perspective on where the speech will be delivered. Before the audience arrives, one can stand in the spot where the speech will be made to increase one’s ease. Sometimes greeting the audience as they arrive makes the task that much more manageable.

After the public speaking training addresses these physical issues, one should examine the message or content of the speech.  In the same way as writing, public speaking has to consider the audience’s needs and expectations. If the audience’s interest is piqued immediately, they will be hooked and will pay attention. Self-interest is a great motivator so the speaker has to tailor the message to the audience’s needs. The questions asked as the speech is written can go something like this:

These types of questions will help keep the speech focused on the message rather than on anything extraneous the speaker may want to include. Only a limited number of points should be made to keep the audience from glazing over after too much information has been given. If the audience comes away feeling they have received something of value, they will be satisfied and the speech will be a success. Public speaking training provides valuable tools to help get the message across.

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