by Judy Vincent Kent — Are you afraid of speaking in public? Well, don’t worry, join the crowd. According to research from the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 75% of all people suffer from glossophobia or the fear of speaking in public. In fact, many researchers comment that this fear ranks higher than any other, including the fear of death. Jerry Seinfield got a huge response when he joked about this statistic. “In other words,” he deadpanned, “at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
At Academy at the Lakes, we strive to remove the fear factor and train our students to speak in public with confidence and grace. We begin early and provide multiple opportunities for students to practice speaking in front of others so that it becomes habit, not an occasional exercise in terror management.
Here are 5 public speaking tips for students that will help even the most novice of speakers.
It’s amazing to see the difference a little deep breathing can make. Take a few deep, calming breaths before beginning to speak and then, be sure to slow down and breathe while you are speaking. If you feel yourself beginning to tremble or lose your way, stop and breathe. All will be well.
Plan what you want to say. Whether you are sharing in an informal public speaking setting or making a formal speech, you will be much more successful – and calm- if you are well prepared. Be sure to plan for the beginning, middle and sometime most importantly, the end. Know how you will wrap things up and do it with confidence.
Even the most confident of public speakers know the benefit of practice. Practice in front of a mirror or if you find that vastly distracting, use your pets as an audience. They will love you, I promise!
Speak slowly and clearly. Modulate your voice as you speak. Listen to what you are saying. If you can do that, you are speaking at a pace that will work for your audience too.
Your body language when speaking is sometimes even more important than your vocal quality. Plant your feet, not too close together. Have a slight bend or looseness in your knees. Stand up tall and open your chest. It makes you feel more confident and widens the chest for deeper breathing and more efficient use of your diaphragm. If eye contact is too frightening, choose a place (or places) just over the heads of your audience to focus on while speaking. It’s okay to look down if you need to refer to your speech or notes, but do not keep your eyes and therefore head down the entire time!
For Academy’s younger students, the above tips will be second nature by the time they reach fourth grade. But, it is never too late to improve your public speaking. I don’t expect everyone to love it, but I can guarantee that with a little practice and guidance, you will at least become one who puts the fear of public speaking a little lower on your list of fears!
Judy Kent is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Academy at the Lakes, a PreK3 through grade 12 independent school located in the Tampa, Fla., area. We celebrate the love of learning and the joy in the journey.