One of the greatest fears of most people is the fear of public speaking. In fact, many studies have revealed that the fear of public speaking actually ranks higher than the fear of death. What is it about public speaking that creates such anxiety? I recall the first speech that I was required to give during my college required Speech class. My initial thought was to give a speech that directed the visual focus of the audience away from me. Although I was successful in achieving this goal, the end result was a feral squirrel frantically running loose in the classroom.
A requirement of the Speech class was for all students to participate in the statewide collegiate speech competition. The audience was larger than I had ever previously seen. The thought of standing in front of such a large crowd was overwhelming. Before I was required to give my speech to the crowd, I watched a few other students deliver their speeches – one of which was my future wife who ultimately ended the competition ranked second in the entire state.
Needless to say, the performance of these well-spoken students just raised the level of fear and anxiety flowing throughout my body. My father always taught me that it is important to face your fears head on. To avoid fears merely amplifies both rational and irrational fears. With this understanding, I stepped on to the stage a delivered a speech to crowd of 100+ people.
The speech was executed without any evidence of the artful articulation previously illustrated by the other students. I stuttered. I stammered. I made the audience as uncomfortable watching the speech as I was giving the speech. The only true accomplishment that I achieved during the speech was the prevention of releasing any bodily fluids.
Life is full of irony and balance. My wife finished the competition in the top 5 rankings while I finished the competition in the bottom 5 rankings. In essence….we balanced the competition. Ironically, ten years later my profession required a significant level of public speaking while my wife’s profession was more creative in nature and required very little public speaking. Due to the evolution of our professional lives, both of us have excelled in the skill sets required for our ultimate success – even though (for me especially) the beginning stages of refining the skill sets were extremely painful (for me as well as those who witnessed).
The unique irony of effective public speaking is the key element is the Art of Repetition. What makes this ironic? Repetition is typically a well pronounced element early in one’s public speaking experience. For example, early in my public speaking career I found myself constantly repeating many of the same words or phrases. This was not done by design but more the result of nerves. The stuttering and stammering often were just the cosmic repetition of memorized words.
The key to effective public speaking is not merely repetition, but the Art of Repetition. There must be structure and execution. There must be definition and for the average listener to truly retain the information they typically must hear the information three times. Therefore, there is a simple/basic while extremely effective blue print for delivering a strong and meaningful speech.
1. Tell the audience what you’re going to tell them.
2. Tell the audience.
3. Then, tell the audience what you have told them.
Previewing the information, Providing the information, and then Recapping the information is a fundamental structure which will provide the speaker an effective speech format for delivering his/her message while at the same time insuring that the targeted audience remembers the message being provided.
Public speaking may be feared by most more than death, but it is something that most anyone can do with the proper structure and preparation. Although the Art of Repetition may be the key ingredient in delivering an effective speech, the Art of Repetition is also the key ingredient to overcoming fear. The more speeches that are given the less fearful the speeches become.
As a very wise man once told me……..to avoid fears merely amplifies both rational and irrational fears. It is important to face your fears head on.