Winchester Medical Center

WIN 2015

Spirit of Women magazine is a national publication presented to women by hospitals and their physicians. The magazine provides up-to-date, evidence-based healthcare information and promotes our hospitals as leaders in women's health excellence.

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1 9 w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m W I N T E R 2 015 S P I R I T O F W O M E N Take a tip from Toastmasters Toastmasters International, a global organization that teaches public speaking skills, recommends these additional tips for boosting your public speaking skills and alleviating your fears. • Get to your speaking location early so you can walk around and practice with the microphone and other equipment you'll be using. • Say hello to audience members as they arrive so that they seem less like strangers to you. • Start by addressing the audience to buy yourself some time and help calm your nerves. Before you say that frst word, pause, smile and count to three. • Don't point out your nervousness to the audience—chances are that they'll never even notice it. F rom the American Psychological Association to comedian Jerry Seinfeld, it's unanimous: Most people fear public speaking more than they fear death. "I would say that most people have a fear of public speaking, but to varying degrees," agrees Jane Praeger, a faculty member at Columbia University and one of the foremost U.S. experts on overcoming fear of public speaking. "It's often relative to the situa- tion. Someone may be comfortable speaking in one setting and not in another." So you're in good company if you suffer from what's technically known as glossophobia, a common social anxiety disorder that's also relatively easy to overcome or at least learn to live with, say experts. WHY IT HAPPENS The number of people in the room is often a key factor in how comfortable you'll feel speaking in public, says Praeger. For some, it takes an entire auditorium to bring on nervousness, while others begin feeling anxiety the minute there are more than four or five in the audience. In addition, a fear of public speaking is not neces- sarily something you're born with. Praeger says people often develop it with changed circumstances or in certain very specific situations. "Sometimes, when people have a new job, or they have a tough new boss, it can make them feel very insecure all of a sudden," says Praeger, founder of Ovid Inc., a speech, presentation and media training firm. "Then, once they stumble or have a case of nerves in one presentation or meeting, it can make them even more nervous for the next time." PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT No matter what brings on a fear of public speaking, the cure is the same, says Praeger: good solid preparation ahead of time. "The big problem I encounter when I work with people is that they have this idea that they're supposed to wing it, and that only naturally good speakers are comfortable in front of crowds, but that's not true," Praeger explains. "Good speakers are absolutely meticulous in their preparation." Here are some of Praeger's top strategies for feeling more comfortable when you speak in public: Examine your content. Be careful of too much jargon, or of trying to cram every single thing you know into your talk. You are telling a story, and that story should be colorful and have a strong theme. Even if you're not speaking from a prepared text, it can be effective to write out your speech ahead of time and then collapse it into bullet points to which you can refer. Think of yourself as a conduit. People are there to listen because they want something from you. They are not there to judge. Instead of stewing over what you are going to say and what they will think of you, think about what your audience needs to hear. Approach your pre- sentation as a gift to your audience, and shift your focus from you to them. Desensitize yourself. Don't try to give the keynote talk at a huge meeting when you're new to public speaking. Instead, start by practicing with two or three people with whom you are comfortable. Ask them not to speak or critique, but to take a step toward you when they're feel- ing engaged, and a step back when they feel themselves drifting. You'll get instant, visceral feedback that tells you where your talk is working and where it is failing. Rehearse and imagine. Praeger says it's ideal to rehearse while walking, swimming or showering because the vestibular (inner ear) stimulation enables you to practice in a way that's very effective. Also, spend some time imagin- ing that you're making your speech, with the audience receiving it positively and people coming up afterwards to tell you how much they enjoyed it. "Find a story you can tell well and that is relevant and meaningful, and step out of your own skin and into your audience's," explains Praeger. "You'll find what is interesting to them." • 4 SHUTTERSTOCK

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