Don't be afraid to
of public speaking outranks fear of death, divorce and dismemberment
in survey after survey, said Judith Reagan, the associate director
of the Teaching
Resource Center and a member of the drama faculty.
don't be afraid to join the club -- or admit you're already a
member. Whether teaching a lecture class of 300, leading a staff
meeting of 40 employees or participating on a team project, if
you quake everytime you think of talking aloud, you're not alone.
Be aware of the whole room and
look at lots of different people, not just at one person
with whom you have a comfortable connection.
Don't look between people or
toward their ears -- it'll be disconcerting because they
won't know whether you¹re looking at them or not.
Don't survey the room like an
old typewriter carriage going back and forth.
you needn't have that déjà-vu nightmare every time, according
to Reagan, who reprised her much-praised session on making presentations
at the TRC's August teaching workshop.
fact, if you have no qualms whatsoever about standing up in front
of an audience, you might want to check your pulse. Getting nervous
is actually a good sign -- it means you're engaged with the activity
and want to do well. "You can harness that energy to work
for you," said Reagan, who was her own best example, exhibiting
poise and humor which enlivened and enlightened her presentation.
like any other skill -- you can learn what it takes to give better
who is really good at public speaking, they've learned it, either
consciously or unconsciously," Reagan said.
are several exercises that, when done regularly for just a few
minutes a day, can help a speaker feel more in control. You can
work on reducing your stage fright, increasing your concentration
and strengthening your voice.
about it and pinpoint what makes you feel nervous -- is it the
number of people in the audience? Presenting new material? Reagan
advises people to pick one element of public speaking at a time
to work on, rather than trying to tackle the whole range of characteristics
can practice by yourself at home, but remember that your focus
when giving your talk should be outward, toward the people with
whom you're trying to communicate, not inward, obsessing about
how awful you must be. Don't berate yourself.
of the biggest improvements you can make is using eye contact.
Although she stressed that in different cultures eye contact can
mean different things, in our culture, it conveys confidence and
trust, even likeability. If you don't use it, your audience may
think you're not just nervous, but unprepared -- or worse, that
you're lying. You can also learn how you're doing; you can tell
if people can hear you, if they're puzzled or getting it. You
can make quick adjustments and wipe away that sinking feeling.
put her helpful techniques into action, getting the group of faculty
and graduate teaching assistants up out of their seats to practice
not only breathing exercises, but hurling Shakespearean insults
at one another. (All in good fun, of course).
Yes, breathing. It's often taken for granted, but provides the
foundation for making the best of your voice. Reagan recommends
strengthening the diaphragm with a couple of exercises that develop
control and the ability to project your voice. Anxiety can lead
you to a shallow gasping that won't keep you from drowning.
supposed to put your hands on your belly (don't worry, no one
has to watch) and take in a big breath, feeling the diaphragm
expand your stomach muscles; release a sustained "ah"
sound while letting the air out; repeat the exercise regularly
and see how long you can extend the "ah" as you watch
the clock. This will also help you increase your volume, if needed.
You want to aim for reaching everyone, not yelling.
the other exercise, again with your hands on your belly to make
sure it's working, let go a series of "huh, huh, huh² in
short bursts -- this is another way to practice deep breathing
from the diaphragm. Other qualities of voice besides volume that
affect presentation: articulation, speed, pitch and accent or
physical aspects important in public speaking include posture,
gesturing and maintaining a relaxed demeanor.
you're reading a paper, you can write in cues to remind yourself
of connecting with the audience, like slow down, look up, smile,
communication is a circular process between speaker and listener.
Judith Reagan is available to give public speaking workshops
to departments. She also will be giving this session again at
the Jan. 15 teaching workshop. Contact her through the TRC at
982-2815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.