As a way to fulfill my 2016 resolution of becoming a better public speaker, I enrolled myself (with great fears) in a public speaking course. I say with great fears because I have serious issues with presentations and talking in front of large audiences. And it was becoming chronic because every time I felt that a lot of attention was on me, I would immediately stutter and fidget and become an absolute mess. Not good. Not good at all.
And so I’m going to be blogging for this course (even though I’m not required to) because I’m very determined to document everything in it, as well as find out really, what is it that turns me into an idiot in front of people.
I didn’t attend the first class because I registered late and so I emailed the professor to know what I missed. She sent me the link to her site and as I read the syllabus, I came to discover that there are so many debates and speeches throughout the course, that I sort of dreaded my decision for a bit.
But I pulled myself together and thought this is one of my chances, and I’m so not chickening out, because I really need this.
The first class that I attended was pretty inspiring.
Here’s a summary:
What makes a bad speaker? What makes a good one? As a class, we listed some things that automatically made us think the speaker isn’t good and why.
-stuttering/playing with hair
-Reading off a paper
-Using a language/terminology that they’re uncomfortable with
After that, we were shown a video of an example of a bad speech, that we couldn’t even reach half of, because of how bad it was, and the way we never even understood what the speaker was talking about. She looked uncomfortable, forced, uninterested, and it was a disaster to have to look away from the screen to try to make out what she was actually saying. Also, she’s standing behind a desk behind a paper, which shows that she’s not at ease with facing the audience.
Nowadays, speeches aim to make the audience feel that the speaker is talking specifically to each and every single one of them. Which means that every listener must relate to the talk on some level.
It is very important to ensure that the speaker establishes a credible image and makes use of the appropriate body language to give the audience an authentic feel.
The first thing to note is the place where one stands while speaking. This means that to project dominance, control, expertise and authenticity one needs to claim space appropriately so that there’s a balance between the speaker who is standing in front of a seated audience and has more power, and also the audience’s ability to feel comfortable (and not cornered) enough to listen attentively.
If the speaker was to kneel down and speak, the audience would feel that both of them are on the same level, and this is why when speakers stand, it gives a superior feeling. Therefore, it is important to be worth this stand.
The space behind a speaker is their “territory”, and so the closer to the audience the more the space, and the stronger the energy given off from the speaker to the audience.
It’s very important to stand facing the audience because this shows that you’re not creating barriers between you and them.
2 of the interesting examples that I liked were that in martial arts, the fighters would stand sideways in order to protect their chest area (which is the most important), and so if she (the professor) were to stand in such a manner while teaching, we wouldn’t be very happy. If she were to tell us a story and at the same time move along with the events of the story, or if she stood to the left then to the right while comparing 2 items, it would make understanding a whole lot easier.
The other case was that if one student was disrupting her class by playing with their phone for example and she wanted that person to stop doing that; it is not wise to pause the class and ask them to stop. Because this would then make her less powerful. The better thing to do is to position herself close to the person causing the trouble. This would make that person feel excluded and would leave whatever they’re doing to focus back on the class.
This video was also proof that exhibiting the right energy at the right time can influence an audience greatly. And although this is about a dog, it inspired me on a personal level not only because I have a fear of dogs but I have the main fear of facing crowds.
And I think what Cesar did was heroic, and it taught me that maintaining balance is important, giving off the right energy is crucial, claiming territory is essential, and when it comes to dogs, it’s best not to look them in the eye and not to energize them.(haha)