Public Speaking help!!

  1. There are so many people on this forum, someone's got to be able to help me! I'm getting my Master's degree and I want to apply for my PhD next year. This means lots of public speaking. Lots and lots, and I'm completely terrified of speaking in front of large groups. Picturing the audience naked, picturing someone in a chicken suit, practicing over and over again...none of that works. As soon as I get up there, I break out into a cold sweat and start shaking.

    My big problem is presenting the material. I basically write out what I want to say and read it word for word, which I know is really dull to listen to, but it's the only way I can speak in front of people without passing out.

    So if you're a teacher or lawyer or someone who speaks in front of a lot of people, how do you lecture and speak on your subject without making it dull? I feel like I'm speaking at my classmates rather than to them, if that makes any sense.

    So any advice?
  2. I would recommend NOT using any of those tricks (picturing everyone naked, etc.)! Just speak very slowly, even if you think it's too slow. And enunciate! Also, make sure you don't make every phrase sound like a question. Some people make it sound like they're questioning things because the tone of their voice rises, and it just makes it seem like you're unsure of the material.
  3. You sound like you need a cure.. try searching out a local Toastmasters group on They definetly have some in Philly. I have been a member for 2 years, and it has helped very much! They focus on writing interesting speeches, leadership, and of course the dreaded public speaking. Even just a visit or too should help cure you! Best thing is honestly to practice, even if its in front of a few friends or family members. Good luck!!
  4. I know exactly how you feel jillybean307. Before I started graduate school, I was extremely afraid of public speaking. However, after lots and lots of practice, I am much more comfortable in front of a crowd. Is there anyone you can practice your lectures/talks with before presenting to the class? I find that helped me a bit.

    When I first started teaching, I also felt like I was talking at the class rather than to them. One thing that I tried that has helped some is asking the class for their input whenever it seems appropriate. So instead of lecturing for the entire 2 hours, I turn part of that time into more of a conversation.

    Good luck and believe me, it does get easier!
  5. Add personal stuff like small tasteful jokes here and there so everyone relaxes and opens up!
  6. Oh gosh I completely sympathize with you.. I'm terrified of public speaking as well! But what I usually do is just write down whatever I want to talk about so I know what points not to miss covering. Also Jill's idea is great.. adding little jokes really helps too!!

    Good luck!!
  7. There are several companies that offer programs targeted primarily to business people. When I was at Xerox, they sponsored me to attend Communispond. This program gives you excellent instruction on structuring your talk, posture, eye contact, gestures, etc. They videotape you giving a short talk before you go through the program and then again after you have completed it. I found it to be very helpful not only in fmroaml presentations but also in meetings and small group dynamics.
  8. i was a national-level debater in high school, and the best advice i can give you is to realize that the people in the audience are probably just as scared of you public speaking. no one expects perfection, no one expects you to be the best speaker ever. just know that your best is probably fine.

    as far as style goes, IMO the best speakers speak pubically like they speak in regular conversation. don't be afraid to go off the script, make a little joke, and smile. get very familiar with your subject matter beforehand and you should be fine. DON'T write out word-for-word what you want to say unless you plan to memorize it. having a few talking points written down that you're comfortable speaking on makes for a much better speach than trying to stick to a script, because then you don't obsess over skipping a word or something. it's much more comfortable and flexible.
  9. Thanks for the advice everyone! I'm going to look into Toastmasters or a company like DeborahSue suggested this summer after my class schedule calms down a little bit. I really wish MA/PhD programs had classes on how to speech to a class & on publishing. I feel like everyone could benefit from classes in those two areas!

    LOL, I'm getting my Master's in Central & Eastern European Studies. I wonder how well a Yakov Smirnoff (, remember him?) joke would go over with my professors?

    I have one more presentation to get through tonight, and then I can relax a little bit. (until the lecture, I'm just going to freak out a little bit & daydream about skipping class):shame: .
  10. Public Speaking is a HUGE fear for most people, especially in academic settings because there is the added pressure of knowing that you're being graded on your performance.

    I'm a communications major, so I have to give lots of presentations! I'm a ridiculously outgoing person, I can talk to anyone and everyone and embarassing me is reeeeaaaaalllly difficult. Still, when I get up to give a speech/presentation, I get REALLY nervous for the first few seconds I'm up there!!! I think that we're socially conditioned to fear speaking in public, but you gotta just change your perception of the situation.

    If you go into the speech thinking all kinds of negative thoughts about it, you're just going to end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure/nervousness. ( meaning if you think you're going to do bad, you'll end up doing bad, not because you were always going to be bad, but because you thought it!)

    The best advice I can offer you, is to change your way of thinking. View speaking in public as a great outlet for voicing your opinions on things- or for showing off how much you know on a topic!! Everyone loves to talk in more private settings, so just transfer that enjoyment of good conversation to speaking in public settings. Keep your presentations casual, but professional, and engage the audience with eye-contact and effective movements- etc. Especially since you're in a classroom setting, the audience is VERY forgiving, because they're all going through the same thing you are!!!

    Another reccomendation would be for you to take an acting class. I've taken one acting class, and am currently in a performance class, and its REALLY helped get me more comfortable being in front of a lot of people. :smile:

    So, just make good notecards, be really informed on your topic, and RELAX! Perhaps you could come up with a little pre-speech ritual! Like, listening to a song you love, or calling up a friend for a quick little confidence boost! :smile: I also find it helps to be dressed cute when giving a speech. :smile:

    Last but not least, let your nerves do their thing. Before you get up, let them give you the butterflies in your stomach, let them make your heart rate rise- and then take a DEEP breath, and picture yourself pushing out all your negative energy and think "ok, I'm done with you now." It sounds so stupid, but it REALLY works. =)

    best of luck! I feel your pain. I'm giving a presenation of Burke tomorrow, where I have to disucss Language as a Symbolic action, scientistic and dramatic approaches to language- etc and its horribly confusing!!! = )
  11. I have no problem speaking in public. You just have to remind yourself they they are just people like you and me. There's nothing to be afraid of, they're not going to throw stuff at you or make fun of you. Just remember, they are just people! :amuse:
  12. XANAX

    But if you want to try the drug free approach ;) Go in with Questions for your audience. They may be retorical, but at least get them talking. Then they will be more focused on making a fool out of themselves and pay no attention to wether your nervouse or not.

    Whenever I present, if I feel like Im losing the crowds attention or they start looking at me like a science project, I BAM point to someone and ask a question.
  13. oh another option, does your school or a local community college offer Speech? You could take that over the summer. It was a requirement for me and I DREADED it but it turns out it was a lot of fun. The whole class was nervous so we really bonded.