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    Speaker tips

    Two articles by guest writer Ron Sathoff

    Change Your Attitude to Fight "Stage Fright"

    One of the problems that my students and clients always complain about is the fear they feel when they speak. It goes by many names: the jitters, stage fright, communication apprehension, and even just "the butterflies." While some people may call this fear of speaking an irrational phobia, it IS real when you're the one feeling it and it CAN have an adverse effect on your presentation, which could cost you that important sale or new promotion.

    So, what can be done to combat this nervousness? Well, there are many techniques or "tricks" that some experts tell their clients. One such trick that you've probably heard of is to imagine your audience in their underwear. In my own experience, these tricks don't usually work -- I don't know about you, but I would be MORE nervous if I were surrounded by half-naked people!

    To be honest, there are no "tricks" that will cause you to feel totally confident and stress-free up there in front of an audience. There are, however, a few things you can do to lessen your speaking fears.

    One of the most important things you can do to fight stage fright is to change your basic attitude about public speaking. If asked, a lot of speakers would compare their situation to that of an actor on a stage (i.e. STAGE fright) but this is the absolute WRONG way to think about public speaking! Think about it -- The purpose of an actor is to give a PERFECT rendition -- while YOUR purpose is to get the information out to your audience in a compelling, interesting, and profitable way.

    Don't think of your speech as a PERFORMANCE -- Instead, treat it like it was a CONVERSATION, but with YOU doing most of the talking (for some people, this isn't that much of a stretch!). For example, in a conversation, if you make a mistake or lose your train of thought, you don't get upset; you simply fix the mistake and move on. Do the same thing in your presentations -- the communication of your information is the key.

    Once, when I was about to perform in a college speech competition, a friend noticed that I was really, really nervous. He said to me, "Hey, You're just a nice guy with some good information." I have always kept that statement in mind whenever I speak in public -- the image it creates in my mind always manages to relax me and remind me about what my TRUE attitude should be.

    Just remember -- stage fright can be a major problem for us all, but a simple change in attitude can reduce it tremendously -- and that can make the difference between a relaxed, motivated presentation and a complete disaster.

    Should You Use Rhetorical Questions?

    Rhetorical questions are probably as old as public speaking itself. Like anything else, this technique has its uses, but can be very tiresome if used overmuch or in the wrong circumstances.

    Remember that a rhetorical question is simply a question asked that doesn't require an answer from another person. So think about it, when would such a question be asked? In my opinion, there are two different times when this kind of question is asked. First, you ask it when you want the audience to THINK about the answer, but you don't need to hear those thoughts. The second time is when you are in a situation where getting an answer is impossible -- when speaking to a large, distant audience, for instance.

    The problem with rhetorical questions is that they can sometimes be confusing. I've heard speeches where someone has rhetorically asked "Think about it; when was the last time you were TRULY happy?" only to have an audience member say out loud, "Yesterday!" Needless to say, the speaker was a little disoriented by this unexpected answer.

    Because rhetorical questions can be hard to handle and because they have a tendency to sound stiff and formal, I recommend that you ask TRUE questions (ones that require an answer) whenever you can. This is especially true if you are in a normal speaking situation, where you can communicate back-and-forth freely with your audience.

    There are two reasons why I recommend doing this. First, it sounds much more conversational -- rhetorical questions don't come up a lot in normal conversation. Second, by asking your audience actual questions and gathering the answers, you are creating a sense of participation in your speech. Your audiences will pay better attention and remember your speech more if they take an active part in it.

    So, the next time you feel like saying something like "We've all had a bad meal, haven't we?" and going on without pausing, try saying "How many of you have had a truly BAD meal in the past week? Raise your hand if you have! [see how many hands go up] Wow, that's a LOT of bad food, and that's what I'm here to talk about . . ." You'll find that, by actually communicating with your audience in this way, your message will be better received.

    Please click here to find out how to persuade your audience without tricking them

    Ron Sathoff is a noted speaker and manager of DrNunley's InternetWriters.com Ron provides help for speakers, marketing, and Internet promotion. Reach him at ron@drnunley.com or 801-328-9006 (USA).

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