Em has her Master's in Biotechnology with a specialization in Regulatory Affairs and currently works as an engineer.
So You Want To Learn About Public Speaking
I am in no way a professional when it comes to public speaking, so let's go ahead and get that out of the way. I just know what works for me and the ways I use to get over my fear, so use them at your own discretion.
Alllllllllllrighty now! Let's get this party started!
Public speaking is a major fear for a lot of people. It is also an activity I was never good at until I was forced to take a three-hour speech/public speaking class every Friday during my very first semester of college.
Yes, I hated it, but I can't deny how much it actually taught me.
I'd also like to point out that we were not allowed to read our speech using what we wrote down; it was all memorized. Well, we could read it right off the paper, but we'd get an F which seemed counterproductive.
This was perhaps one of the most boring and most difficult classes I've ever taken. But it forced me to have a good memory, which I do not currently have, but it's the thought that counts.
What I do remember is that my professor was adamant about us learning and fully understanding the seven elements of public speaking as well as using them appropriately while giving our speeches. These are situation, speakers, channel, interference, message, feedback, and listener(s). Appropriate use of these elements will allow you to produce a well-communicated speech during your public speaking event, or situation, or moment, whatever.
I'll do a quick rundown of the importance of each element.
- Speaker: encompasses how well you are able to communicate your speech and how credible you are/make it sound (involves tone of voice, delivery, and preparation)
- Message: literally means what it says; this is what you the speaker communicate to the audience in which you are speaking to in the way you intended it to be understood
- Situation: time and place the message is being delivered
- Channel: how or in what way the message is communicated
- Interference: external and internal factors that interfere with the message you the speaker are trying to communicate to the listeners
- Listener(s): who receives the message you the speaker are communicating
- Feedback: messages you send back and forth with the listeners/audience such as "I do/do not agree with you"
Using these seven elements, you now know the basics of public speaking. Unfortunately, there are many sublevels to each element that get far more in-depth that I intend to write in this article. For example, the more culturally diverse your audience is, the more difficult and complex public speaking/giving a speech becomes. This of course is due to a variety of reasons, the main one being language.
Cultural diversity within your public speaking audience also gives way to the potential that you may subconsciously and intentionally feel your own culture's beliefs are superior to the other cultures in your audience. This is referred to as ethnocentrism. Don't do that. You don't have to agree with every single value and every single moral or practice of the groups and cultures present, but it does mean that whatever you say will affect how these groups of people react to what you are saying, so keep that in mind.
Enough of the basics. Time to dive into the methods that I can only hope to work for you.
Here's What Public Speaking Tips Work for Me
I'm an outgoing introvert who's awkward at best, and kind of funny at worst.
However, I've mastered how to talk in any group or large audience situation in a way that allows me to be comfortable while making fun of myself and my awkwardness but also allows me to sound like I know what the hell I'm talking about.
It's an art, really.
Just kidding, I learned how to do that while BS'ing my way through my Friday speech purgatory.
I have three main things that I keep in mind when writing up my initial speech, regardless of where the speech will be given or who it will be given to.
Number 1: Talk about off the wall topics.
This is where my speech about male nipples came in.
The topic category for this speech was something sciencey, I think. Essentially, the speech described how at birth, we are all the same biological sex up until a certain period of time when our sex organs are formed. Technically, we're all female in the beginning before we actually receive our, well, indoor or outdoor plumbing if you know what I mean.
This also means that we all start out with having nipples when in reality, men don't really have a biological use for them. But they aren't just going to fall off your body once they're there because the male sex doesn't need them. Not sure why, but my guess is it's just easier to keep on that take off. Feel free to correct me.
Now I'm sure you're wondering what my opener was. I mean, I can't just flat out say "This Is Why Men Have Nipples". That'd be too easy. Unfortunately, I can't remember exactly what I said but I remember my classes eyes going from boredom to wide, so you can only image.
Anyway, my point is that when giving a speech, it's a good idea to talk about something off the wall at some point in your talking. This is appropriate about 98% of the time. I probably wouldn't suggest doing this while giving an eulogy or something, but that also depends on what kind of person the decedent was. Again, that's your discretion.
Regardless, you want to give your audience something to remember so may as well give them a weird factoid that drives them crazy enough to the point that they have to Google for more information to see if you were telling the truth about the matter or were just super convincing.
Number 2: Humor.
Humor helps nearly every anxiety-inducing situation. It helps the speaker feel more comfortable if they can have control over what their audience is laughing at and why, and it helps the audience feel more at ease if it's noticeable that the speaker is a big ball of anxiety and fear.
Be careful when using this topic in formal situation like a big work conference or meeting. Some people want to be ~professional~ all the time and don't like to let a little giggle slip.
In my experience though, humor always works; it's the level at which you deliver it that could cause it to fail. By this, I mean that too much humor could send the wrong message, such as you not taking your situation or speech seriously.
Number 3: Grab your audience's attention then throw 'em through a loop.
This relates to method #1. When doing this, I like to start the speech off which straight facts or something serious or get right to the point. This allows for a steady buildup.
Once you've slightly bored your audience, then say something that catches them off guard (in a funny, intriguing way, of course). It's better to catch them off guard than for them to catch YOU off guard. This will most likely only make you feel embarrassed, so beat them to it.
Here's a quick example using my previous anecdote above.
Say I wrote a speech to perform in front of 60 people.
I'd start the speech by saying hello, welcome, etc so the audience expects me to say a bunch of boring stuff in the coming moments.
Next I'd say a few things about the topic I intend to discuss, such as basic scientific facts.
I'd say something wakes everyone up, catches them off guard, and makes them laugh (hopefully).
This scenario may present itself like this:
Hello and welcome! My name is Em and I'm here today to tell you about the wonders of the human body.
Did you know that when each and every one of us is first created, meaning when the egg and sperm start to mingle, we are just a few cells formed into a ball called a blastocyst? A blastocyst is made up of an inner group of cells with an outer shell and eventually, the inner group will become an embryo that will in time turn into you and I. Biologically speaking, a male or a female each with biologic-specific parts such as breasts, testes, and so on. Incredible, isn't it!
So why in the hell do males have nipples if they don't even use 'em?!
See? Threw you through a loop there and you already knew what I was going to do.
Moral of my story is that it's better to catch people off guard before they do it to you and everyone likes to laugh, regardless if they admit it or not.
Try out these methods and see for yourself. But don't forget, you've got to commit do performing them wholeheartedly; we don't half-butt this method!
Why Most People Are Scared of Public Speaking
Because it's scary, duh.
Most people also don't want to feel more judged than they already feel on a daily basis. Public speaking is kind of like a personal torture you put yourself through whenever you do it.
I've seen the most comfortable people crumble at the idea of public speaking.
We're human, it happens.
Is Public Speaking a Skill to be Learned?
Well, you're reading an article written by a girl who talked about nipples as her final speech, aced the class, found a career while still in school, and who is now an engineer making six figures. So you tell me.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.