Confidence in Public Speaking

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In speaking events finding the balance between speech delivery, interpretation, and an exquisitely written piece are certainly factors of success. But to what extent can excelling in one area serve as a crutch for a weaker part? Can finding the “perfect” piece be the answer to success? Or perhaps hitting every planned gesture is how to rank? Better yet, is selling yourself and the presentation all it takes to win over the audience?

We have all seen the speech that is fueled by showmanship. The material is mediocre. Delivery and interpretation? There, but there are things that could be worked and improved upon. Yet this is a speech that tends to do fairly well and even breaks. Why is this? It’s the salesmanship. The one thing that is obvious about this speech is the confidence and enthusiasm of the presenter. Granted, these particular qualities may mean little later in the season if the speaker’s piece has no merit and their delivery does not grow. But as you master your piece so does the Salesman. You now find yourself in a situation where being methodical and having a fantastic speech may not ebb out this good speaker with powers that rival the late Billy Mays.

People are drawn to those who are self-assured and appear to love their work. Think about any person you have found attractive. I would wager these people were not cowering in a corner, afraid to speak. Of course everyone’s definition of power is different, but it can be agreed upon that all those in the public eye put forth a front of comfort and charm to which we are drawn. The trick is to discover how to pull this from yourself and KABOOM! you now increase your presentation (and yes, pun intended).

Even shy individuals can exude presence in a public speaking. Step one is being well-versed with your piece. Knowing exactly what the speech’s message is, what the language means, and what gestures/movement you use takes away any nervousness you might have in regards to being unsure. Actually, I think most anxiety stems from not being solid on your piece. Get to know it!

Step two is a bit trickier. You have to be comfortable in front of an audience. As public speaking is one of the greater social phobias, this step can be an endeavor. There are several ways to best this beast though. Make it a ritual to practice in front of an audience. The more often you are in front of people the more at home you will feel. Another thing you can do is to use your nerves. Turn that fear into energy for your presentation. How? Well, I tend to get the worst stage-freight during the first 30 seconds of performing, so I focus solely on the scene/piece and pretend the audience is non-existent. I try to turn that anxiety into emotions my character/piece require. Finally, I think it is good to remember that EVERYONE IS NERVOUS TO PERFORM! I cannot remember who uttered this, but I have heard that once you loose that fear to perform that’s how you know it’s time to quit. I completely believe that. One of the reasons you joined Forensics was for that rush you feel performing; that sign you are alive and love what you do. Lose that and it’s game over.

Step three is to recognize that you do not need to be perfect to be a great speaker. Holding perfection as your goal is not only unobtainable but a lofty, subjective desire. Perfection to one can be absolutely different to another. Further, a speech that has been pounded and so rehearsed to reach “perfection” is most likely going to come off as flat and lifeless. And what happens if you forget to do that planned hand gesture that was to take you to victory? Oh my! I’ll tell you what happens; you lose your focus and your presentation suffers.

Combining these three steps will lead you to presence in public speaking. You still have to polish your speech into the pearl it can be through better interpretation, delivery, and finding a speech you adore. However, adding this element of poise will give your piece an air that can elevate you above those in your round.

I think it is also worth noting that the "fear" of being in front of an audience is something that happens to EVERYONE WHO IS PERFORMING IN ANYTHING EVER. When you loose that adrenaline rush, that's when I would be worried...IMHO.

Being prepared is the greatest way I know to feel confident about walking into a round. Makes you feel like yeah, I can do this!

Listening to some good tunes before a round helps give me an ego boost too :D

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