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Silently Mastering Public Speaking

Published on February 19, 2019, at 4:50 p.m.
by Whitney Blalock.

Public speaking is practically unavoidable. From the classroom to the workplace, speaking in front of an audience is essential to getting your ideas out there. However, the main dilemma is more than 25 percent of Americans are afraid of speaking publicly. But don’t let that scare you! Public speaking is much more than just speaking.

Let’s break it down using the 55/38/7 formula. Roughly 7 percent of communication is actually the words that are said, while 55 percent is body language, and 38 percent is tone of voice. This means mastering nonverbal communication is 93 percent of the battle to overcoming the fear of public speaking.

Here are a few tips and tricks to become an expert nonverbal speaker:

Photo by Marcos Luiz on Unsplash

Watch the fidgeting.
The telltale signs of nerves are displayed in the body’s extremities, specifically hands and feet. An audience will immediately recognize your speaking anxiety by watching you twist your ring, stuff your hands into your pockets or shuffle your feet. Realize and monitor your nervous habits to minimize the fidgeting.

Use deliberate hand gestures.
While fidgeting reveals nerves, intentional hand gestures make you appear relaxed and at ease. Purposely using a hand gesture to complement a word or phrase enhances what is being said. Used sparingly and with a conscious effort, hand gestures not only aid in the message’s authenticity and credibility, but also help you appear more comfortable and in control of what you’re saying.

Make eye contact.
Eye contact builds trust between you and the audience. Speaking to a large crowd often feels overwhelming, but focusing on a few individuals instead calms the nerves. Shifting your attention to specific listeners rather than staring over the whole group lessens the anxiety and helps you realize you are simply talking to other interested humans. Plus, the audience will feel more connected and engaged.

Photo by Tyler Callahan on Unsplash

Take a stance.
In preparation for a speech or presentation, try striking a power pose in the mirror. Stand tall, roll your shoulders back, ground your feet, and let the confidence spread through your body. In front of your audience, take the same pose. Try not to revert to your nervous habits of clenching your hands behind your back or sagging your shoulders. Face the crowd head on and keep your body open to them. Although it feels awkward, let your arms hang by your sides unless you are making a hand gesture.

Record yourself.
One of the most effective practices before public speaking is recording yourself delivering the message. Watch the video and pay special attention to your body language and tone of voice. You will be surprised to see nervous tendencies you never realized you had. Once you’re aware of such habits, make a deliberate effort to minimize them. Practice makes perfect!

With these tips and tricks, you’re 93 percent through mastering your public speaking fear. Only a small 7 percent to go!

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