How to control Public speaking nerves

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Part 1 Getting Started 1. Becoming a Public Speaker 2 2. From A to Z: Overview of a Speech 8 3. Managing Speech Anxiety 14 4. Ethical Public Speaking 23 5. Listeners and Speakers 301 Becoming a Public Speaker Whether in the classroom, workplace, or community, the ability to speak confidently and convincingly before an audi- ence is empowering. This pocket guide offers the tools you need to create and deliver effective speeches, from brief pre- sentations to fellow students, co-workers, or fellow citizens to major addresses. Here you will discover the basic building blocks of any good speech and acquire the skills to deliver presentations in a variety of specialized contexts—from the college psychology class to business and professional situations. Gain a Vital Life Skill The ability to speak confidently and convincingly in public is a valuable asset to anyone who wants to take an active role in the world. Now, more than ever, public speaking has become both a vital life skill and a secret weapon in career develop- 1 ment. Recruiters of top graduate school students report that what distinguishes the most sought-after candidates is not their “hard” knowledge of finance or physics, but the “soft 2 skills” of communication. Dozens of surveys of managers and executives reveal that ability in oral and written commu- nication is the most important skill they look for in a college graduate. In a recent survey of employers, for example, oral communication skills ranked first in such critical areas as teamwork, interpersonal competence, and analytical skills. SKILLS EMPLOYERS SEEK 1. Communication skills (verbal and written) 2. Strong work ethic 3. Teamwork skills (works well with others) 4. Initiative 5. Interpersonal skills (relates well to others) Source: Job Outlook 2009, a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2009. Learn Practical and Transferable Knowledge Perhaps more than any other course of study, public speak- ing offers extraordinarily useful practical knowledge and skills that lead to satisfying personal and professional devel- opment. For example, public-speaking training sharpens your ability to reason and think critically. As you study pub- lic speaking, you will learn to construct claims and then present evidence and reasoning that logically support them. 21 • Becoming a Public Speaker 3 As you practice organizing and outlining speeches, you will become skilled at structuring ideas and identifying and strengthening the weak links in your thinking. These skills are valuable in any course that includes an oral-presentation component, from engineering to art history, or in any course that requires writing, researching topics, analyzing audi- ences, supporting and proving claims, and selecting patterns for organizing ideas. These skills will also serve you well throughout your career and beyond. QUICK TIP Public Speaking Leads to Career Success According to a report titled What Students Must Know to Succeed in the 21st Century, “Clear communication is critical to success. In the marketplace of ideas, the person who communicates clearly is also the person who is seen as thinking clearly. Oral and written communication are not only 3 job-securing, but job-holding skills.” Find New Opportunities for Engagement While public speaking skills contribute to both career advancement and personal enrichment, they also offer you ways to enter the public conversation about social concerns and become a more engaged citizen. Climate change, energy, social security, immigration reform—such large civic issues require our considered judg- ment and action. Yet today too many of us leave it up to politicians, journalists, and other “experts” to make decisions about critical issues such as these. Today, only about 35 per- cent of people in the United States regularly vote. When citi- zens speak up in sufficient numbers, change occurs. Leaving problems such as pollution and global warming to others, on the other hand, is an invitation to special interest groups who may or may not act with our best interests in mind. As you study public speaking, you will have the opportu- nity to research topics that are meaningful to you, consider alternate viewpoints, and if appropriate, choose a course 4 of action. You will learn to distinguish between argument that advances constructive goals and uncivil speech that serves merely to inflame and demean others. You will learn, in short, the “rules of engagement” for effective public 5 discourse.4 1 • GETTING STARTED Build on Familiar Skills Learning to speak in public can be less daunting when you realize that you can draw on related skills that you already have. In several respects, for example, planning and deliver- ing a speech resemble engaging in a particularly important conversation. When speaking with a friend, you automati- cally check to make certain you are understood and then adjust your meaning accordingly. You also tend to discuss issues that are appropriate to the circumstances. When a relative stranger is involved, however, you try to get to know his or her interests and attitudes before revealing any strong opinions. These instinctive adjustments to your audience, topic, and occasion represent critical steps in creating a speech. Although public speaking requires more planning, both the conversationalist and the public speaker try to uncover the audience’s interests and needs before speaking. Preparing a speech also has much in common with writ- ing. Both depend on having a focused sense of who the audi- 6 ence is. Both speaking and writing often require that you research a topic, offer credible evidence, employ effective transitions to signal the logical flow of ideas, and devise persuasive appeals. The principles of organizing a speech parallel those of organizing an essay, including offering a compelling introduction, a clear thesis statement, support- ing ideas, and a thoughtful conclusion. Develop an Effective Oral Style Although public speaking has much in common with every- day conversation and with writing, it is, obviously, “its own thing.” More so than writers, successful speakers generally use familiar terms, easy-to-follow sentences, and transitional words and phrases. Speakers also routinely repeat key words and phrases to emphasize ideas and help listeners follow along; even the briefest speeches make frequent use of repetition. Spoken language is often more interactive and inclusive of the audience than written language. The personal pro- nouns we, I, and you occur more frequently in spoken than in written text. Audience members want to know what the speaker thinks and feels and that he or she recognizes them and relates the message to them. Yet, because public speaking usually occurs in more formal settings than everyday conver- sation, listeners generally expect a more formal style of com- munication from the speaker. When you give a speech, listeners expect you to speak in a clear, recognizable, and organized fashion. Thus, in contrast to conversation, in order1 • Becoming a Public Speaker 5 to develop an effective oral style you must practice the words you will say and the way you will say them. Become an Inclusive Speaker Every audience member wants to feel that the speaker has his or her particular needs and interests at heart, and to feel rec- ognized and included in the message. To create this sense of inclusion, a public speaker must be able to address diverse audiences with sensitivity. No matter how passionately they believe in an issue, our most admired public speakers strive to respect differing viewpoints. When planning and deliver- ing their speeches, they try to take audience members’ sensi- tivities related to culture, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, and other relevant characteristics into account. Striving for inclusion and adopting an audience-centered perspective throughout will bring you closer to the goal of every public speaker—establishing a genuine connection with the audience. Public Speaking as a Form of Communication Public speaking is one of four categories of human commu- nication: dyadic, small group, mass, and public speaking. Dyadic communication happens between two people, as in a conversation. Small group communication involves a small number of people who can see and speak directly with one another. Mass communication occurs between a speaker and a large audience of unknown people who usually are not present with the speaker, or who are part of such an immense crowd that there can be little or no interaction between speaker and listener. In public speaking, a speaker delivers a message with a specific purpose to an audience of people who are present during the delivery of the speech. Public speaking always includes a speaker who has a reason for speaking, an audi- ence that gives the speaker its attention, and a message that is 7 meant to accomplish a specific purpose. Public speakers address audiences largely without interruption and take responsibility for the words and ideas being expressed. Shared Elements in All Communication Events In any communication event, including public speaking, several elements are present. These include the source, the receiver, the message, the channel, and shared meaning (see Figure 1.1).l e C n h n a a n h n C e l 6 1 • GETTING STARTED Context Noise Noise Noise Message Shared Encoding Decoding meaning Goals Source Receiver SPEAKER AUDIENCE Receiver Source Outcome Shared Decoding Encoding meaning Feedback Noise Noise Noise FIGURE 1.1 The Communication Process The source, or sender, is the person who creates a message. Creating, organizing, and producing the message is called encoding—the process of converting thoughts into words. The recipient of the source’s message is the receiver, or audience. The process of interpreting the message is called decoding. Audience members decode the meaning of the message selectively, based on their own experiences and atti- tudes. Feedback, the audience’s response to a message, can be conveyed both verbally and nonverbally. The message is the content of the communication process: thoughts and ideas put into meaningful expressions, expressed verbally and nonverbally. The medium through which the speaker sends a message is the channel. If a speaker is delivering a message in front of a live audience, the channel is the air through which sound waves travel. Other channels include the telephone, televi- sion, computers, and written correspondence. Noise is any interference with the message. Noise can disrupt the com- munication process through physical sounds such as cell phones ringing and people talking, through psychological distractions such as heated emotions, or through environ- mental interference such as a frigid room or the presence of unexpected people. Shared meaning is the mutual understanding of a mes- sage between speaker and audience. The lowest level of shared meaning exists when the speaker has merely caught the l e C n h n a a n h n C e l1 • Becoming a Public Speaker 7 audience’s attention.As the message develops, a higher degree of shared meaning is possible. Thus listener and speaker together truly make a speech a speech—they “co-create” its meaning. Two other factors are critical to consider when preparing and delivering a speech—context and goals. Context includes anything that influences the speaker, the audience, the occa- sion—and thus, ultimately, the speech. In classroom speeches, the context would include (among other things) recent events on campus or in the outside world, the physical setting, the order and timing of speeches, and the cultural orientations of audience members. Successful communication can never be divorced from the concerns and expectations of others. Part of the context of any speech is the situation that cre- ated the need for it in the first place. All speeches are deliv- ered in response to a specific rhetorical situation, or a 8 circumstance calling for a public response. Bearing the con- text and rhetorical situation in mind ensures that you remain audience centered—that is, that you keep the needs, values, attitudes, and wants of your listeners firmly in focus. A clearly defined speech purpose or goal is a final prerequi- site for an effective speech. What is it that you want the audi- ence to learn or do or believe as a result of your speech? Establishing a speech purpose early in the speechmaking process will help you proceed through speech preparation and delivery with a clear focus in mind. The Classical Roots of Public Speaking Originally the practice of giving speeches was known as rhet- oric (also called oratory). Rhetoric flourished in the Greek city-state of Athens in the fifth century B.C.E. and referred to making effective speeches, particularly those of a persuasive nature. Athens was the site of the world’s first direct democracy, and its citizens used their considerable skill in public speaking to enact it. Meeting in a public square called the agora, the Athenians routinely spoke with great proficiency on the issues of public policy, and to this day their belief that citizen- ship demands active participation in public affairs endures. Later, in the Roman republic (the Western world’s first- known representative democracy), citizens spoke in a public space called a forum. From the beginning, public speakers, notably Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.), and later, the Roman statesman and orator8 1 • GETTING STARTED Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.), divided the process of preparing a speech into five parts, called the canons of rhetoric. Inven- tion refers to adapting speech information to the audience in order to make your case. Arrangement is organizing the speech in ways best suited to the topic and audience. Style is the way the speaker uses language to express the speech ideas. Memory and delivery are the methods of rehearsing and pre- senting the speech so that you achieve the most effective blend of content, voice, and nonverbal behavior. Although such founding scholars as Aristotle and Cicero surely didn’t anticipate the omnipresent PowerPoint slideshow that accompanies contemporary speeches, the speechmaking structure they bequeathed to us as the canons of rhetoric remain remarkably intact. Often identified by terms other than the original, these canons nonetheless continue to be taught in current books on public speaking, including this pocket guide. QUICK TIP Voice Your Ideas in a Public Forum The Greeks called it the agora; the Romans the forum. Today, the term public forum denotes a variety of venues for the discussion of issues of public interest, including traditional physical spaces such as town halls as well as virtual forums streamed to listeners online. Participation in forums offers an excellent opportunity to pose questions and deliver brief comments, thereby providing exposure to an audience and building confidence. To find a forum in your area, check with your school or local town government, or check online at sites such as the National Issues Forum ( From A to Z: 2 Overview of a Speech Novice speakers in any circumstances, whether at school, at work, or in the community, will benefit from preparing and delivering a first short speech. An audience of as few as two people will suffice to test the waters and help you gain confi- dence in your ability to “stand up and deliver.”2 • From A to Z: Overview of a Speech 9 Practice Delivering the Speech Consider Presentation Aids Outline the Speech Separate the Speech into Its Major Parts Gather Supporting Materials Develop the Main Points Compose a Thesis Statement Determine the Speech Purpose Review the Topic in Light of Audience Analysis Analyze the Audience Select a Topic FIGURE 2.1 Steps in the Speechmaking Process This chapter presents a brief overview of the process of preparing a first speech or presentation (see Figure 2.1). Subsequent chapters expand on these steps. Select a Topic The first step in creating a speech involves finding something to speak about. Unless the topic is assigned, let your interests— your passions—be your guide. What deeply engages you? What are your areas of expertise? Your hobbies? Be aware, however, that even though personal interest is important, your topic must be of interest to the audience. Selecting an appropriate topic requires knowledge of who is in the audi- ence and what their interests are. Analyze the Audience Audiences have personalities, interests, and opinions all their own, and these factors will determine how receptive an audi- ence will be toward a given topic. You must therefore learn all10 1 • GETTING STARTED you can about your audience—what they share in common, and what may divide them. Audience analysis is a systematic process of getting to know your listeners. It involves studying the audience through tech- niques such as interviews and questionnaires (see Chapter 6). For a brief speech, consider some general variables: • Begin with some fairly easily identifiable demographic characteristics: the ratio of males to females; racial and ethnic differences represented in the group; noticeable age variations; and the proportion of the group that is from out of state or from another country. • Consider how different people (e.g., older and younger, men and women, international and native-born) might think or feel differently about your topic. Determine the Speech Purpose Decide what you wish to convey about your topic and why. For any given topic, you should direct your speech toward one of three general speech purposes—to inform, to persuade, or to mark a special occasion. An informative speech provides an audience with new information, new insights, or new ways of thinking about a topic. Its general purpose is to increase the audience’s aware- ness by imparting knowledge. Sample topics might include trends in video gaming or advances in electric cars. A persuasive speech intends to influence the attitudes, beliefs, values, or acts of others. For example, a speaker might attempt to convince listeners that state universities should not charge tuition or argue that the child foster-care system is in disarray. A special occasion speech (also called ceremonial speech) marks a special event, such as a wedding, funeral, com- mencement, or banquet. This type of speech can be either informative or persuasive and is often a mix of both. How- ever, depending on the occasion, its underlying purpose is to entertain, celebrate, commemorate, inspire, or set a social agenda. Your speech should also have a specific purpose—a single phrase—usually left unsaid in the speech itself—stating specifically what you expect the speech to accomplish: • If the general speech purpose about campus security is to inform, the specific purpose might be “to inform the audience of how the administration plans to implement its new safety and security measures this fall.”2 • From A to Z: Overview of a Speech 11 • If the general speech purpose about campus security is to persuade, the specific purpose might be “to persuade the audience that the administration’s safety and security measures are inadequate to address current threats.” Compose a Thesis Statement Next, compose a thesis statement that clearly expresses the central idea of your speech. While the specific purpose focuses your attention on what you want to achieve with the speech, the thesis statement concisely identifies for your audi- ence, in a single sentence, what the speech is about: GENERAL PURPOSE: To inform SPECIFIC PURPOSE: To inform my audience about the privacy policy of the social networking site Facebook. THESIS STATEMENT: Facebook collects a wide variety of informa- tion about its users, and utilizes it for diverse and some times surprising purposes. Wherever you are in the planning stage, always refer to the thesis statement to make sure that you are on track to illustrate or prove the central idea of your speech. Develop the Main Points Organize your speech around two or three main points. These points are your primary pieces of knowledge (in an informative speech) or your key arguments (in a persuasive speech). If you create a clear thesis statement for your speech the main points will be easily identifiable, if not explicit: THESIS: Rather than censorship, concerns about the potential for clogging its computer system drove the U.S. military’s decision to block service members from accessing YouTube, MySpace, and ten other popu- lar sites. I. The military based their selection of sites to block on highest-volume use. II. In key war zones, limited infrastruc- ture reduces the amount of band- width that is available to the military’s network. III. Most deployed forces can still access the blocked sites using commercial Internet cafes and providers.12 1 • GETTING STARTED Gather Supporting Materials Supporting materials illustrate speech points by clarifying, elaborating, and verifying your ideas. They include the entire world of information available to you—from personal expe- riences to every conceivable kind of print and electronic source. A speech is only as good as its supporting materials, which provide evidence for your assertions and lend credi- bility to your message (see Chapters 9–11). Separate the Speech into Its Major Parts Every speech has three major parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. Develop each part separately, then bring them together using transition statements (see Chapter 12). The introduction serves to introduce the topic and the speaker and to alert the audience to your specific speech pur- pose. A good introduction should catch the audience’s atten- tion and interest (see Chapter 15). Just like the body of a written essay, the speech body contains the speech’s main points and subpoints, all of which support the speech’s the- sis. The conclusion restates the speech purpose and reiterates how the main points confirm it (see Chapter 15). MAJOR SPEECH PARTS INTRODUCTION • Arouse the audience’s attention with a quotation, short story, example, or other kind of attention-getting device. • Introduce the topic and purpose of the speech. • Preview the main points. • Use a transition to signal the start of the speech body. BODY • Clearly state the thesis. • Develop the main points using a structure that suits the topic, audience, and occasion. • Use a transition to signal the conclusion. CONCLUSION • Restate the thesis and reiterate how the main points confirm it. • Leave the audience with something to think about or challenge them to respond. • Be prepared to answer questions. Outline the Speech An outline provides the framework upon which to arrange main points in support of your thesis and subordinate points2 • From A to Z: Overview of a Speech 13 in support of your main points. Outlines are based on the principle of coordination and subordination—the logical place- ment of ideas relative to their importance to one another. Coordinate points are of equal importance and are indicated by their parallel alignment. Subordinate points are given less weight than the main points they support and are placed to the right of the points they support. (For a full discussion of outlining, see Chapters 12 and 14.) COORDINATE POINTS I. Main Point 1 II. Main Point 2 SUBORDINATE POINTS 1. Main Point 1 A. First level of subordination 1. Second level of subordination 2. Second level of subordination a. Third level of subordination b. Third level of subordination As your speeches become more involved, you will need to select an appropriate organizational pattern (see Chapter 13). You will also need to familiarize yourself with developing both working and speaking outlines (see Chapter 14).Working out- lines contain points stated in complete sentences, whereas speaking outlines (also called “presentation outlines”) are far briefer and use either short phrases or key words. Speaking outlines are printed out on separate sheets or written on 4"× 6" index cards for use during the speech. Consider Presentation Aids Presentation aids that summarize and highlight information, such as charts and graphs, often can help the audience retain ideas and understand difficult concepts. They also can pro- vide dramatic emphasis that listeners will find memorable (see Chapter 20). Practice Delivering the Speech The success of any speech depends on how well prepared and practiced you are. So practice your speech—often. It has been suggested that a good speech is practiced at least six times. For a four- to six-minute speech, that’s only thirty to forty minutes (figuring in restarts and pauses) of actual practice time.14 1 • GETTING STARTED Vocal Delivery Vocal delivery includes speech volume, pitch, rate, variety, pronunciation, and articulation. As you rehearse, do the following: • Pay attention to how loudly or softly you are speaking. • Pay attention to the rate at which you speak. Aim to speak neither too fast nor too slowly. • Avoid speaking in a monotone. • Decide how you want to phrase your statements, and then practice saying them. • Pronounce words correctly and clearly. Nonverbal Delivery Beyond noticing the words of a speech, audiences are highly attuned to a speaker’s nonverbal speech behavior—facial expression, gestures, general body movement, and overall physical appearance. As you rehearse, do the following: • Practice smiling and otherwise animating your face in ways that feel natural to you. Audiences want to feel that you care about what you are saying, so avoid a deadpan, or blank, expression. • Practice making eye contact with your listeners. Doing so will make audience members feel that you recognize and respect them. • Practice gestures that feel natural to you, steering clear of exaggerated movements. 3 Managing Speech Anxiety Everyone, even the most experienced speakers, often feel jittery before they give a speech. According to one study, at least 75 percent of students in public-speaking courses 1 approach the course with anxiety. It turns out that feeling nervous is not only normal but desirable Channeled prop- erly, nervousness may actually boost performance. The difference between seasoned public speakers and the rest of us is that the seasoned speakers know how to make their nervousness work for rather than against them. They3 • Managing Speech Anxiety 15 use specific techniques, described in this chapter, to help them cope with and minimize their tension. I focus on the information. I try not to think about being graded. I also practice my speech a ton to really make sure I do not speak too quickly. I time myself so that I can develop an average time. This makes me more confident in dealing with time requirements. And, because I know that I am well prepared, I really try to just relax. — Kristen Obracay, student Identify What Makes You Anxious Lacking positive public-speaking experience, feeling differ- ent from members of the audience, or feeling uneasy about being the center of attention—each of these factors can lead to the onset of public-speaking anxiety, that is, fear or anxi- ety associated with either actual or anticipated communica- 2 tion to an audience as a speaker. Identifying at which stage you become anxious can help you lessen your fear. Lack of Positive Experience If you have had no exposure to public speaking or have had unpleasant experiences, anxiety about what to expect is only natural. And with no positive experience to fall back on, it’s hard to put these anxieties in perspective. It’s a bit of a vicious circle. Some people react by deciding to avoid making speeches altogether. Although they avoid the anxiety of speechmaking, they also lose out on the considerable rewards it brings. Feeling Different Novice speakers often feel alone—as if they were the only person ever to experience the dread of public speaking. The prospect of getting up in front of an audience makes them extra-sensitive to their personal idiosyncrasies, such as hav- ing a less-than-perfect haircut or an accent. Novice speakers may think that no one could possibly be interested in any- thing they have to say. As inexperienced speakers, we become anxious because we assume that being different somehow means being infe- rior. Actually, everyone is different from everyone else in many ways. And, just as true, nearly everyone experiences nervousness about giving a speech.16 1 • GETTING STARTED I control my anxiety by mentally viewing myself as being 100 percent equal to my classmates. —Lee Morris, student Being the Center of Attention Certain audience behaviors—such as lack of eye contact with the speaker or conversing with a neighbor—can be dis- concerting. Our tendency in these situations is to think we must be doing something wrong; we wonder what it is and whether the entire audience has noticed it. Left unchecked, this kind of thinking can distract us from the speech itself, with all our attention now focused on “me.” As we focus on “me,” we become all the more sen- sitive to things that might be wrong with what we’re doing—and that makes us feel even more conspicuous, which increases our anxiety In fact, an audience generally notices very little about us that we don’t want to reveal, especially if our speeches are well developed and effectively delivered. It’s always scary to speak in front of others, but you just have to remember that everyone’s human. . . . Nobody wants you to fail; they’re not waiting on you to mess up. —Mary Parrish, student Pinpoint the Onset of Nervousness Different people become anxious at different times during the speechmaking process. Depending on when it strikes, the consequences of public-speaking anxiety can include every- thing from procrastination to poor speech performance. But by pinpointing the onset of speech anxiety, you can address it promptly with specific anxiety-reducing techniques (see strategies to boost confidence on pp. 18–20). Pre-preparation Anxiety Some people feel anxious the minute they know they will be giving a speech. Pre-preparation anxiety at this early stage can have several negative consequences, from reluctance to begin planning for the speech to becoming so preoccupied with anxiety that they miss vital information necessary to fulfill the speech assignment. If this form of anxiety affects you, use the stress-reducing techniques described in this chapter early on in the process.3 • Managing Speech Anxiety 17 Preparation Anxiety For a minority of people, anxiety arises only when they actu- ally begin to prepare for the speech. At that point, they might feel overwhelmed at the amount of time and planning required. They might hit a roadblock that puts them behind schedule, or be unable to locate support for a critical point. These kinds of preparation pressures produce a cycle of stress, procrastination, and outright avoidance. All con- tribute to preparation anxiety. If you find yourself feeling anxious during this stage, defuse the anxiety by taking short, relaxing breaks. Pre-performance Anxiety Some people experience anxiety when they rehearse their speech. At this point, the reality of the situation sets in: Soon they will face an audience of people who will be watching and listening only to them. As they rehearse, they might also realize that their ideas don’t sound as focused or as interest- ing as they should. Knowing that time is short, they begin to get nervous. If this pre-performance anxiety is strong enough and is interpreted negatively, they might even decide to stop rehearsing. I got really scared the first time I rehearsed my last presentation—it just didn’t seem interesting enough. I spent a few hours trying to strengthen it and make it more interest- ing, then I rehearsed again. The second time around felt much better, and the speech went well. —Hallie Klein, student Performance Anxiety For the majority of people, anxiety levels tend to be highest 3 just before they begin speaking. This is true even of actors, who report that their worst stage fright occurs just as they walk on stage to begin their performances. Performance anxiety in speechmaking is probably most pronounced during the introduction phase, when we utter the first words of the speech and are most aware of the audience’s attention. As might be expected, audiences we perceive as hostile or negative usually cause us to feel more anxious 4 than those we sense are positive or neutral. However, expe- rienced speakers agree that if they control their nervousness during the introduction, the rest of the speech will come relatively easily.18 1 • GETTING STARTED Regardless of when anxiety about a speech strikes, the important thing to remember is to manage your anxiety and not let it manage you—by harming your motivation, or by causing you to avoid investing the time and energy required to prepare and deliver a successful speech. Use Proven Strategies to Boost Your Confidence A number of proven strategies exist to help you rein in your fears about public speaking, from meditation and visualiza- tion to other forms of relaxation techniques. The first step in taming speech anxiety is to have a clear and thorough plan for each presentation. Prepare and Practice If you are confident that you know your material and have adequately rehearsed your delivery, you’ll feel far more confi- dent in front of an audience than otherwise. Preparation should begin as soon as possible after a speech is assigned. Once you have prepared the speech, be sure to rehearse it several times. QUICK TIP Rehearse to Build Confidence Making progress on any task increases confidence. Preparing your speech in advance will lessen your nervousness considerably. Remember, just as sitting around wishing you were in better physical shape won’t firm you up, merely wishing your speech will be a success won’t make it so. To ensure a positive result, prepare the speech well in advance and rehearse it several times. Modify Thoughts and Attitudes Negative thoughts about speechmaking increase speech anx- 5 iety. A positive attitude, on the other hand, actually results in lowered heart rate and reduced anxiety during the delivery 6 of the speech. As you prepare for and deliver your speech, regard it as a valuable, worthwhile, and challenging activity. Remind yourself of all the reasons that public speaking is helpful personally, socially, and professionally. Think posi- tively about public speaking, and remind yourself that it is an opportunity toward, not a threat to, personal growth.3 • Managing Speech Anxiety 19 Just before a speech those feelings of anxiety undoubtedly try to sneak in. The way I keep them from taking over is to not let my mind become negative. As long as I keep positive thoughts of confidence in my head, anxiety doesn’t stand a chance —Morgan Verdery, student QUICK TIP Envision Your Speech as a Conversation Altering your thinking about public speaking from a “performance” to a “communication” can significantly 7 increase confidence. Try thinking of your speech as an extension of an ordinary conversation. Doing so might help you feel more relaxed about the process, and with each successive speech experience, your attitude toward public speaking will grow more positive. Visualize Success 8 Visualization is a highly effective way to reduce nervousness. The following is a script for visualizing success on a public speaking occasion. This exercise requires you to close your eyes and visualize a series of positive feelings and reactions that will occur on the day of the speech. Close your eyes and allow your body to get comfortable in the chair in which you are sitting. Take a deep, comfortable breath and hold it . . . now slowly release it through your nose. Now take another deep breath and make certain that you are breathing from the diaphragm . . . hold it . . . now slowly release it and note how you feel while doing this. Now one more deep breath . . . hold it . . . and release it slowly . . . and begin your normal breathing pattern. Now begin to visualize the beginning of a day in which you are going to give an informative speech. See yourself get- ting up in the morning, full of energy, full of confidence, looking forward to the day’s challenges. You are putting on just the right clothes for the task at hand that day. Dressing well makes you look and feel good about yourself, so you have on just what you want to wear, which clearly expresses your sense of inner well-being. As you are driving, riding, or walking to the speech setting, note how clear and confident you feel, and how others around you, as you arrive, comment positively regarding your fine appearance and general