Think of your biggest fear. Heights? The dark? Spiders? It seems hard to believe, but the world’s biggest fear is public speaking. It’s amazing that something so common, something that everyone partakes in multiple times throughout their lives, is something that people are so fearful of. As a future communications professional, public speaking is something that I have definitely encountered problems with. As a child, I was very outgoing and had no problem being a performer and in front of a crowd. As I got older, I started becoming fearful of crowds and groups of people and dreaded even answering questions in class. When I came to college as a communications major, I knew that my fear of speaking in public was something that I had to overcome. The very first class I took at Seton Hall was Oral Communication, a class focused on public speaking and giving speeches.
One of the things I learned were ways to get rid of the nerves. Although I learned a lot, there were some pieces of advice that I didn’t think were the best techniques because they had not really worked for me in the past.
Here are the five worst pieces of public speaking advice:
- Picture your audience naked
- Practice in front of a mirror
- Start with a joke
- Tell the audience you’re nervous, drunk, hung over, etc.
- Do not look them in the eye; the forehead will do.
Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström via Compfightcc
One of the most notorious tips for public speaking is picturing your audience naked. Now I never really understood this concept. I know that the goal of this tip is to make the speaker feel as if they are in control and that they are not vulnerable. However, picturing a naked audience does nothing but make me feel uncomfortable.
In my opinion, one of the most awkward things a speaker can do is start off with a joke. Unless this joke is entirely clever and relevant to the topic of the speech, it rarely works. If the joke goes bad, it leaves the speaker even more nervous than before and the audience will be confused. Best bet is to just ask a question and try to engage the audience – don’t try too hard!
Another tip that I had frequently heard was not to feel the need to look the audience in the eye, but look sporadically around the room, at their foreheads, etc. Now one of my biggest pet peeves is when people do not look me in the eye when speaking to me. Someone can tell when you are not looking directly at them – which makes not only you but the audience feel uncomfortable.
The number one thing to remember is to be confident. If you feel satisfied with yourself after speaking in public and it shows, the audience will feed off your confidence. This is the best way to get your message across and truly speak to the audience.