On March 7th 2017 DCUBS hosted a public speaking seminar for NGM students. TV presenter Yvonne Redmond was invited in to talk to us about public speaking and share some of her hints and tips. Yvonne has worked in journalism for over a decade and across several platforms including; print, radio, television and online. She has experience in front of and behind camera. Formerly she held positions at TV3 where she was a documentary producer and the Series Producer (LinkedIn, 2017).
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Yvonne opened by telling us how important word choice was when putting presentation material together. People are inclined to dress material up and try to use flowery words in these situations. However, this can work against you as these types of words can trip us up when we have to deliver them in public. She advocated the use of simple words, knowing your audience, and pitching your speech at the right level.
She also gave us tips on how to manage nerves in these situations. She demonstrated how to hold a sheet of paper or cue cards so as to appear open and control shaky hands. In situations where one doesn’t have paper/cue cards placing one’s hand of a rostrum to help dissipate the nervous energy is effective. She also showed us how to belly breathe to overcome shortness of breath in nervous situations.
Within the media, they practice the ‘rule of 5′. One should read over presentation material at least five times before delivering it to an audience. In addition, practising in front of people works best as this resembles the real situation more accurately and you can get feedback. Yvonne also spoke about appearing genuine when presenting, 20 percent of it is about what you say and 80 percent is about how you feel about what you say. This is especially relevant in sales pitch or interview situations. Her tip was to fake it ’till you make it. This can be achieved by looking at the tops of people’s heads, it appears to them that you are making eye contact when in fact you are not.
Finally, she talked about the importance of knowing the space you have to present in. One should know the room and what does and does not work in there. If possible visit the room before hand and made sure the sound and imaging devices are working properly.
I chose to do this POD as I have issues with public speaking and this is an area I need to spend considerable time developing. I made a commitment to myself to attend as many events and seminars as possible to do this. In addition, I have been forcing myself to speak in front of large numbers of people in recent months to try to overcome my fear, I undertook the tutoring POD to gain experience in teaching and to enable me to speak in front of larger numbers of people on a weekly basis as I believe that this is the best way to deal with my fear. The public speaking seminar focuses on the finer points of public speaking and is a progression from simply standing up in front of a class.
I want to learn how to deal with presentation anxiety when it strikes. This POD provided me with strategies to deal with that and to enable to me to the stage and speak with confidence, polish, and professionalism.
One of my biggest fears is that I’ll get up on stage and forget what I’m supposed to say and end up stumbling and mumbling my way through a presentation and mess the whole thing up. To compensate for this I tend to write detailed notes and attempt to memorise them, I become completely obsessed with knowing it word for work. Invariably what happens then is I forget a line or a point and get flustered and lost. Even if I don’t forget a line or point my delivery can be stiff and lifeless as I’m basically just rhyming off information.
Yvonne recommended putting a PowerPoint together and using the minimum of text on each slide. One should practice the presentation and instead of reading off the bullet points, one should elaborate on each one and fill out the presentation with information off the top of your head. By applying the ‘rule of 5’ you can get a good handle on what you want to say and allow the information sink in and percolate. By the fifth iteration you’ve basically memorised the presentation. You know what’s on each slide, when to pause and make eye contact and what you’re going to speak about next. The general flow of the presentation is memorised, but the way each bullet point is fleshed out changes slightly each time. I can see the benefit of this approach as it gives me the benefit of having my presentation committed to memory without the stiffness of word for word memorisation, as has been the case in the past.
Yvonne also spoke about appearing genuine when presenting and how 20 percent of public speaking relates to the relevance of what you are saying, whilst 80 percent is about what you feel about what you are saying. I fully acknowledge that when I feel uncomfortable about a presentation, it’s invariably because there’s a slide with something on it that I don’t really believe, or it’s on a subject I feel I don’t have a good handle on. I often get hung up on phrasing things a certain way so that the audience will think a certain thing. Yvonne’s advice was to use plain simple language and to practice in front of others to get comfortable with the material. By concentrating on phrasing things in the right way you put yourself under unnecessary pressure. When you let go of the minutiae, and just try to honestly share what you know about the topic it lowers your stress levels immensely.
I believe the only cure for insecurity is experience and this is why I have chosen to force myself to speak in public as much as possible. You just have to get up there, learn from each experience and practice before you get really comfortable. I can’t spend my professional life running from public speaking and presenting.
Cognitive models attribute fear of speaking in public to an essentially negative-biased perception of individuals with regard to their social performance. According to these models, negative self-imagery has a causal role in the development and maintenance of the disorder (Pull, 2012). This is supported by Hirsch et al (2006), low public-speaking anxious volunteers rehearsed a negative self-image, a positive self-image, or a control image prior to giving a speech. The negative image group felt more anxious, believed they performed less well and reported more negative thoughts than the positive image group. The negative image group also reported more anxiety than the control group.
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Negative self-images seem to represent memories of aversive social situations occurring at the time of onset of the disorder (Hackmann, Clark and McManus, 2000) particularly in those prone to shyness. These memories may then be reactivated in the form of negative self-images during subsequent social situations. If so, the images will be associated with increased anxiety, negative automatic thoughts, and the belief that the individual is coming across poorly.
Stanford University (2017) offer the following helpful advice on overcoming speech anxiety
Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking:
- Figure out what scares you. Think about your fears and make a list of the specific things that make you feel anxious or afraid. Then make a list of ways you can cope with or address your fears.
- Breathe deeply. Practice breathing deeply and slowly while you’re practicing, before you go on stage, and during your speech.
- Warm up your body before speaking. Exercise reduces tension and helps you concentrate.
- Practice. Formal practice before a speaking event will help you feel more confident about what you’re going to say and how you’ll say it.
- Visualize success. Picture yourself succeeding and having fun. Close your eyes and do a mental rehearsal of your speech once or twice before you deliver it.
- Get enough sleep and have a good breakfast.
- Visit the space ahead of time. Get as many details as you can about the room, the audience, the equipment, your time constraints.
- Play the Worst Case Scenario game. What’s the worst thing that could happen? What will you do if that does happen? Often, even the worst possible situation isn’t as bad as you think.
- Take the pressure off yourself. Very rarely does anyone give a completely perfect speech. When it comes to public speaking, and your audience will understand if you make mistakes. Think of every speech you give, and the mistakes you make, as a stepping stone toward becoming a more effective speaker.
Hackmann, A., Clark, D. and McManus, F. (2000). Recurrent images and early memories in social phobia. Behaviour Research and Therapy, [online] 38(6), pp.601-610. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.dcu.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0005796799001618 [Accessed 11 Mar. 2017].
Hirsch, C., Mathews, A., Clark, D., Williams, R. and Morrison, J. (2006). The causal role of negative imagery in social anxiety: A test in confident public speakers. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, [online] 37(2), pp.159-170. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.dcu.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0005791605000236 [Accessed 11 Mar. 2017].
LinkedIn, (2017). Yvonne Redmond. [online] LinkedIn. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yvonne-redmond-89002566/ [Accessed 11 Mar. 2017].
Pull, C. (2012). Current status of knowledge on public-speaking anxiety. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, [online] 25(1), pp.32-38. Available at http://ovidsp.tx.ovid.com.dcu.idm.oclc.org/sp-3.24.1b/ovidweb.cgi? [Accessed 11 Mar. 2017].
Stanford University, (2017). Overcoming Speech Anxiety. [online] Stanford University. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/dept/CTL/Oralcomm/Microsoft%20Word%20-%20OvercomingSpeechAnxiety.pdf [Accessed 11 Mar. 2017].
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