How not to speak in tongues

By Cathy Thurber

My son had to present a short book report during school last week and it was all I could do to get him out the door and on the bus the day of his presentation.  He hates to speak in front of people.  I completely get where he’s coming from because I was always horrible at giving speeches.  My throat would clench, my mouth would get dry….I sounded like a frog trying to get the first few sentences out.  Either that or I would fumble with my words and sound like I was speaking a second (and unknown) language.  And God forbid if the speech had to be over three minutes long – I’d be in panic mode!

In order to help him get through this tough moment, I researched ideas on how to overcome your fear and speak in public.  I thought I’d share a few of them.

1.     Relax!  I know, it’s easier said than done.  But, if you can just remember that you’re not perfect (and your audience doesn’t expect you to be!) then it may help you to calm down a little.  Take some deep breaths and don’t think negative thoughts.
2.     Know what you’re talking about.  In other words, know your topic.  Make sure you’ve read about your subject and written down all the important bits on your note cards.  When you’ve researched your subject matter then it will start sinking in – and then you won’t feel like you don’t know anything.  Instead, you’ll feel more confident when you’re up in front of people that may not know a thing about your theme.
3.     Practice makes perfect.  Well, at least it will make it easier to get through your speech when you’ve gone through it a few times (especially since I already said you didn’t need to be perfect!).   You can even practice giving your speech in front of a mirror so that you get used to the feeling that someone is paying attention to you.
4.     Try really hard not to say “uh” or “um” a lot.  You don’t need to fill the silence.  If you hesitate for a moment during your speech, just take another deep breath and start where you left off.  This is probably one of the toughest ones to get over.
5.     Just be yourself.  You’re not a professional speaker, so don’t try to act like one.  Besides, if you have a great personality (like I believe my son does) then just let that shine through.  He tends to be a bit of a comedian, so I told him to smile a bit and maybe ham it up when he was talking about the best part of the book.

    I know a couple of these ideas seemed to help him get through his speech.  I’m sure we’ll need to go over them again when the next oral report comes up.  At least we’re one step ahead next time!

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