“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” — Jerry Seinfeld
If my students’ reaction to a public speaking assignment is any indication, my fellow Massapequan Jerry Seinfeld is right. Nothing seems to instill more dread than giving a speech in front of 20 fellow classmates. So can you imagine the fear when you have to make a presentation to 50 or 100 or even a thousand people? What happens when the day comes when you’ll need to express your ideas to your boss or the management of your company? If you’re in PR, you’ll be giving media presentations, tours, emceeing events, and acting as a spokesperson for your clients to the media.
Texts and experts provide us with helpful hints on making a good speech: Stand up straight. Anchor your body. Don’t read. Lead with a story or joke. Keep it short and simple. Slow down. Use your hands. Make eye contact. End with a strong conclusion. It’s an awful lot to remember, especially if you’re nervous.
When I worked in radio, speaking on the public airwaves was easy for me because I never saw my audience. And although I’ve since made hundreds of presentations and have taught hundreds of students, I can still have moments of nervousness before I begin. I’ve found the best antidote for the fear of expressing myself in front of an audience is plenty of preparation. This is true whether I’m about to teach a class or make a presentation or a speech. The more I’ve familiarized myself with the material and the more I’ve actually practiced out loud, the more calm and comfortable I am.
Expressing yourself on a piece of paper is challenging enough. Expressing yourself to a group can be frightening. Just ask Jerry Seinfeld. He does it all the time, and with plenty of preparation and rehearsal. Your thoughts?