Posted by: George E Burney | April 26, 2013

First, Convince Yourself!

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In a sense, giving a speech is not difficult. Instead, it is simple and easy. To prove that point, think of this: If you were in a forest, and there was no other person within ten miles of you, could you give a speech? Yes, and with very little difficulty.

An Easy Speech to Give

You could express your thoughts clearly. If you also had an outline of the points you wanted to cover, and you were very familiar with those ideas, you could speak at length about them without rambling. You’d have a track to run on and you’d use it. You would glance at your outline periodically, just to keep your bearings, and expound on the ideas listed there.

If the subject you were discussing was close to your heart, and you had strong feelings about it, you would speak enthusiastically, with passion. Clarifying thoughts would present themselves to you as you spoke, and you would weave them into your discourse.

Your delivery would be conversational, since you would not feel the need to impress anyone. Gestures would come automatically, without any forethought on your part. Your voice would be pleasant to hear, since you would speak softly at times, and with more volume at others. It would rise and fall in pitch, too - sometimes higher, and sometimes lower.  In short, you could give an excellent presentation! What is the only factor missing?

No Audience Means No Problem

The audience. This means that you could do quite well, if you had no audience. But that would defeat the purpose of public speaking, wouldn’t it? So giving a speech is not the problem, it’s giving a speech to an audience that seems difficult.

What, though, if you heard applause after giving your speech in a forest? If, unknown to you, a group hiking through the forest heard you speaking, followed the sound of your voice, and quietly suspended all movement while listening to you?

They may have been favorably affected by your apparent earnestness, your sincerity and naturalness as you discussed a subject you had strong feelings about. In any event, after you finished, they spontaneously applauded your efforts.

But is this plausible? Could this really happen? Yes. It’s a lot closer to reality than many of the plots we buy into while watching television or when reading fiction. In fact, real life is stranger than fiction. So, yes, this could actually happen.

If it did, what would it show? That the problem is not the audience itself. It has more to do with the way we view the audience, and what we think they would think of us. After all is said and done, that’s the real issue.

The Real Issue

Notice that the issue is not what the audience would think of us, because we have no way of knowing that in advance. Instead, it has to do with what we think. That very often is the crux of the problem.

Well, if that’s the problem, what’s the solution? What was the solution in the illustration presented above? What did you, as the speaker in the forest, do to solve the problem?

Since you thought you had no audience, you focused on the ideas you wanted to express. You were convinced you had something to say, and that you could do an adequate job of expressing it. Those two sentences contain the key elements of a sound program for overcoming fear of our audience. You must be convinced that you have something worth saying, and that you can do a reasonably good job of saying it.

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