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(Fear of) giving a speech

QuarterMasterQuarterMaster Registered User regular
edited October 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
"Fear" here meaning terrified.

I'm taking a public speaking course at my local community college with the hope of finally conquering my deep-seated fear of speaking to a group. My first speech is due tomorrow, and I'm so nervous it makes me feel physically ill. I've practiced it in my room without any reaction, but when I tried to do it in front of my family I freaked out and forgot half of it. I know this is a fear just about everybody has, but I think mine goes a little deeper than most people..I just don't know if I can bring myself to do it. I'm more afraid of giving my speech than of dropping the class. >.<

So, I'm just wondering if anybody else here has gone through something similar, and if they have any advice or tips they'd be kind enough to share. I'd really appreciate any....

tl;dr: Terrified of giving my first speech tomorrow, in search of advice on getting over it.

[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
QuarterMaster on

Posts

  • GorgeeenGorgeeen __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    How big is the audience? 100? 1000?

    Also if it's tomorrow you fucked up there is very little you can do in 24 hours to train yourself gracefully and gradually for this. The only way to survive now is to just man up and do it while realizing it will not be the end of the world. Like being thrown into the deep end of a pool without knowing to swim.

    Gorgeeen on
    No god damnit! The sheriff is a nig*Church Bells*r!!
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  • QuarterMasterQuarterMaster Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Haha, no, it's just my class of 20 or so. It doesn't help that I'm the youngest one in the class, coming after all these older students with great speeches.

    And I know it all seems stupid, but it's just the one thing I've never been able to do.

    QuarterMaster on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • IrohIroh Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Haha, no, it's just my class of 20 or so. It doesn't help that I'm the youngest one in the class, coming after all these older students with great speeches.

    And I know it all seems stupid, but it's just the one thing I've never been able to do.
    You're there to improve; no one takes a class in public speaking when they are already a master orator, so don't worry about it. Trust me, there's no way you're the only one there with anxiety about speaking in front of an audience, so they will understand.

    Iroh on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • TexiKenTexiKen thank you very little Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    What really helped me get over that fear of speaking was getting it into my head that I am better than everyone in the room right now, and you (the audience) know it. It' all about asserting confidence on the audience.

    Go into the speech with confidence, study it beforehand (I read my speeches in front of a mirror to watch myself, and know when to use hand gestures, make a joke,, etc.)

    Also, think what some smart ass may say in the room to throw you off guard. I always factored in contingencies for when someone would say ask a question that tried to be a curveball, and how to deal with them.

    Just remember for the 10 or so minutes your speech is, you are better than everyone else. And don't even think about looking down at the ground or staring at your cards only, show your dominance.

    Act like you know everything about your subject, even if you don't. If you act like you do, you can defuse some people trying to question your speech or knowledge of a subject.

    Finally, spread the eye contact around. If you focus on a person, you make them uncomfortable and they will show it in their face and expressions (or even try and crack you up and lose your train of thought), and that can mess you up.

    Just remember everyone has to do it, and stumbling around and mumbling doesn't make you look cool, which some people will do tomorrow in your class. I can pretty much guarantee it. People will be forgiving if you forget what you were about to say, just laugh it off with them ("If only I could have forgotten [insert joke about recent pop culture event, like Brittney Spears at MTV video awards]." Everyone laughs, crisis averted)

    TexiKen on
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  • ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    It's not quite the same, but I'm absolutely terrified of playing guitar and singing in front of a crowd. I'm fine playing in front of a few friends, or in a band, or even on a stage in an environment where people are only half-paying attention to me (like, cocktail party). But on an open mic...there's the silence and the attentive eyes and the judging oh god

    You should remember two things:

    1) Everyone in the class is going through the same thing you are. They understand your predicament and your nervousness better than most.

    2) Because of (1), no one (except maybe a few assholes) will be judging you. Most of them will be supportive and positive, and a lot of them won't even notice if you make any mistakes (they don't have your speech on hand, I'm assuming).

    Beyond that, the only thing you can do is just memorize and recite the thing until you can do it on autopilot. Get to the point where after you say the first sentence, the entire thing just flows out of you without you having to stop and think once. Most of your fear is probably tied to your freezing or forgetting your entire speech in a panic, and with hardcore rote memorization and practice, neither of those will be an issue.

    That said, if you freeze, DON'T PANIC. If you're having problems, stop, take a deep breath, slow your racing mind down, collect your thoughts (take as long as you have to), and continue as calmly as you can, as if the interlude never took place. No one will mind, especially considering that this is your first time for the class.

    ChopperDave on
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  • CycophantCycophant Registered User
    edited October 2007
    It's a bit different, but when I was back in Public school, I was always the quiet one in front of crowds. Small groups I was ok with, but much larger than a group of 6 or 7, and it was too much.

    Then of course along came a Public Speaking thing in school we all had to do. Well, I sat down with my mom and wrote a kick-ass speech. I was nervous as hell the first time I performed it, but I practiced the shit out of it well beforehand, and it came out well. Well enough, in fact, to get voted to the class finals, grade finals, school finals, and then city-wide finals. Needless to say after that, I was never afraid of public speaking again.

    So my advice is to practice it really well, and if at all possible, gradually work your way up to larger crowds. This class is []definitely[/i] a great start - congrats on having the balls to take it. If the class is huge, you may want to try delivering the speech to a smaller group ahead of time, if it's possible. If not, just rely on your practice, and get through it. Each and every time, you'll notice big improvements.

    Cycophant on
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  • KyouguKyougu Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    My recomendation would be for you not to 100% memorize your speech. You'll stress yourself too much trying to make sure you give it line per line as you rehearsed it, and when you're giving it and you forget one line or point, it may throw you off the entire speech. It's better to just go ahead and have a decent outline in your mind of what you want to say.
    Also, it's a public speaking class. Probably everyone is as nervous about giving speech as you, so they're not judging you or anything.

    Kyougu on
  • Blake TBlake T Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    I once gave a speech infront of 60 odd people for class. Without looking at the material I was going to present. I knew about the subject but a friend was supposed to give the speech and pulled out at the last second so I didn't even know what was on the powerpoint presentation. I just stood up and started talking about what was on the powerpoint presentation.

    It was so much fun, I got full marks and one of my friends said it was the best speech he had heard for the day and when I told him I made it up on the spot his eyes popped out of his head.

    The secret of writing a good speech is to write it, read it over (and this is the main part of it) throw it the fuck away.

    Not making eye contact or at the very least not staring out at a blank spot near someone is the worst thing you can do.

    If you have a powerpoint presentation as well (which is the secret to an awesome speech) the rules are as follows. One slide per minute. No more than four lines of text. If you want look up at these and they can be your notes. Basically then each line of information you should eb able to talk to for 15 seconds.

    Blake T on
  • supertallsupertall Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Everyone hates doing these, but it does get much easier after you've done it a few times. I think it's one of those things where you just have to dive in and do it.

    If you get flustered and lose your track in the middle, stop, and take a couple of deep breaths. It will seem like you're stalling for hours to you, but the audience won't notice.

    If you're allowed, some flash cards can be helpful. Don't copy your speech down word for word, but write down a couple of key ideas for each subject you'll be mentioning. Like TexiKen said though, don't stare at them the whole time.

    supertall on
  • trixtahtrixtah Registered User
    edited October 2007
    Don't look at people's faces--look above their heads and never say "um." To you, a pause or mistake is very noticeable, but to the audience, it's almost imperceptible. Also remember that there is always someone worse than you. Even for the worst person in the class, there's someone worse than them (to others or to them). Talk loudly and with confidence. Talking loudly and slowly is the way to go.

    trixtah on
  • QuarterMasterQuarterMaster Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Actually, my teacher is running it so that the first thing we do is write an outline of our speech, and then copy the basics down to note cards in case we blank. It's supposed to be an introductory speech, so I picked my experience as a home schooler. The thing that bugs me the most is that, to me anyway, it sounds more like a lecture on home schooling than an introductory speech. :-/ Ah well, guess I'll just practice it to death tonight.

    Anyhoo, the advice so far has been great. Thanks, and keep it coming!

    QuarterMaster on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • AbsoluteHeroAbsoluteHero __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    Here's a protip, something I actually did once for a big class speech in highschool.

    Write all your notes for your speech on a single piece of paper. The next day, arrive to class and be the FIRST one there.

    Crumple up your notes and throw them in the garbage without your teacher seeing you, and if your teacher sees you tell him to be quiet and just go along with this.

    When people arrive in and start talking about the speech be sitting in your seat all apathetic and shit and then suddenly exclaim "OH SHIT THERE IS A SPEECH TODAY!? FUCK!! I DIDN'T EVEN DO ONE!"

    Now I'm not much of an english student, I sucked tests and stuff so I was basically a C student. Some A++++ bastards would be all snobbish and elitist and be like "Well your fucked." but some nicer girls were like "Omg what r u gonna do..." and I generally acted like I was stressing a bit. I walked out of the room to get some water, then I came back in and I had this look on my face. I searched the garbage can by the teacher's desk, and found nothing, then I went to the garbage can where I threw away my notes before class and pretended to "find" some piece of paper and opened it up. I glanced at the page and returned to my seat still reading it. Some people asked me "What the hell are you doing?" And I was like "I found some kids notes on a speech from an earlier class!"

    At that point people were in disbelief of what I had just done and what I was planning to do. They looked at me like a crazy fucker. Then when it came to be my turn, I went up, did my speech perfectly and calmly, pretended to reference the sheet of paper a couple times just for show, and after I finished I crumpled the sheet of paper up again and trashed it dismissively. I went back to my seat where I was congratulated like hell and I just played it off like nothing.

    I was a fucking classroom Hero.

    AbsoluteHero on
  • Blake TBlake T Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Actually, my teacher is running it so that the first thing we do is write an outline of our speech, and then copy the basics down to note cards in case we blank. It's supposed to be an introductory speech, so I picked my experience as a home schooler. The thing that bugs me the most is that, to me anyway, it sounds more like a lecture on home schooling than an introductory speech. :-/ Ah well, guess I'll just practice it to death tonight.

    Anyhoo, the advice so far has been great. Thanks, and keep it coming!

    No, write the cards out. But whatever you do, do not bring them up there. They will be your crutch, and you will look at them just because they are there. Breaking eye contact with the audience (or perceived eye contact) is a big no. The only out you can have is when you point to something (like the powerpoint presentation) and you look with the audience. This develops a subtle bond because you are doing the same thing.

    Also if you do have slides. To expand on the four sentances thing.

    Keep each slide as sparse as possible. The less information the better.

    Blake T on
  • DrFrylockDrFrylock Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    I've given many high-pressure speeches and talks, and I'm firmly against memorizing one's speech.

    It doesn't come off naturally, if you forget a part you get easily sidetracked and flustered, and if you do get distracted by an interruption, it will be really hard to pick up where you left off. I generally make a small bulleted outline of the points I want to address and use that. It's just an outline, so you're not reading off it, which lets you spend more of your time looking at/around the audience. You want to talk to people like you're explaining something to them or telling them a story, not like you're reading them a book.

    DrFrylock on
    Pheezer wrote: »
    I would strongly recommend reading DrFrylock's post thoroughly and considering all of his points individually.
  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Most orators advise people to not memorize speeches. Know the speech, know the subject matter, but have key parts that guide you to the next part. It's the same trick w/ notes. The notes aren't supposed to be the full speech; they're supposed to be the key points, like an outline. Like "SUBJECT, 1863, leads to CIVIL WAR, major war, general's name and actions, political movement, emancipation proclamation" each on a card. That way if you lose your place, you just glance at the card and can see that the next bit is about [whatever]. The key points that are important, such as years, facts, important people or studies, should be on the notes. These are also the parts that should be on powerpoint/keynote slides, as they're points of importance for the audience as well.

    I used to hate public speaking until I took a class where the prof stressed that we should do subjects we know and care about. Suddenly they were fun -- I knew all about what I was going to talk about before even practicing the speech! It was like talking with friends about something I was into! I just gave it some structure and the rest came naturally.

    EggyToast on
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  • QuarterMasterQuarterMaster Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Our teacher pretty explicitly banned any form of visual aid for our first speech, so PP is kind of out of the question at this point.

    Right now I've got my "speech" pretty much memorized, in that I know what I want to say and have a pretty good idea of how to say it. A lot of it is just an improv of sorts, since none of us actually ever wrote a speech word for word. I'll probably be revising my notes with just the things I tend to forget most often, in big bright letters. ;)

    QuarterMaster on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • KyouguKyougu Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Another tip that I just realized, is that use your hands when speaking. It looks odd if you just constantly keep them at your side, or even worse, in your pockets. If you seem excited/animated about your topic the audience will be more into it.

    Kyougu on
  • Blake TBlake T Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    EggyToast wrote: »
    Most orators advise people to not memorize speeches. Know the speech, know the subject matter, but have key parts that guide you to the next part. It's the same trick w/ notes. The notes aren't supposed to be the full speech; they're supposed to be the key points, like an outline. Like "SUBJECT, 1863, leads to CIVIL WAR, major war, general's name and actions, political movement, emancipation proclamation" each on a card. That way if you lose your place, you just glance at the card and can see that the next bit is about [whatever]. The key points that are important, such as years, facts, important people or studies, should be on the notes. These are also the parts that should be on powerpoint/keynote slides, as they're points of importance for the audience as well.

    The memorizing part is true. Writing it out however is recomended. It gives you an idea to see how sentances sound out loud. If something sounds silly then either rewrite it or don't talk about it at all.


    You are giving a speech it's impossible to tell everything.

    Blake T on
  • TreelootTreeloot Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    I used to get really nervous before concerts when I played violin. The best trick I found was telling myself nobody will care if you screw up. If you can believe it, you'll give a great speech.

    I can almost guarantee no matter how badly you screw up, people in the class will have seen worse. When I was on my high school's speech team, I saw pretty much everything that could go wrong. I saw Missed lines, forgetting entire speeches, and some of the reasoning ever. In the end, no matter how badly someone screwed up, nobody really cared.

    Treeloot on
  • GameHatGameHat Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    I was pretty heavily involved in debate back in my high school years. Was pretty good too, won a bunch of state awards. Always debated cross-topic, which meant I often had to deliver speeches with about 5 minutes of prep.

    The thing is, I am (and was) powerfully shy.

    What helped for me -

    1) Remember that people almost ALWAYS assume you know better than they do. You may feel like a fool giving a speech, but afterwards you hear from many people how professional you sounded. So don't sweat things, 90% of all honest people think their speech went worse than it did, it least in my debate experience.

    2) Don't look at people. "Professional" speakers often advise you to make eye contact. Bullshit. If you're nervous, and I often was, this is often difficult. You want to look at your audience, but make "contact" with their foreheads. I relied on this heavily, and I don't doubt it made them all think I was speaking directly to them.

    3) When people are nervous, they tend to speak too quickly. I know I do. Knowing that, make an effort - a powerful effort - to speak slowly. What feels glacially slow on stage comes off as the proper speed to a listener. Remember that you are likely presenting "new" information as a speech-giver so a slow tempo is helpful to let the audience process what you are saying.

    4) Last - if it is appropriate to the setting - use even a bit of humor. Remember that the audience gets nervous during a presentation as well, as they (like you) think that they are expected to respond appropriately to any speech. Any joke or crack you make onstage gets about a +3 to humor because the audience is RELIEVED to laugh. It lessens the tension. Of course, if you overstep on the humor, it's like 10x as worse as not making the joke. Make a VERY light joke during your presentation, pause for a bit of chuckles, but never laugh at the joke yourself. This has never failed me. ONCE a joke of mine fell powerfully flat while speaking (was giving a 'campaign' speech for class president); I let it go immediately and actually heard some people talking afterwards about how I was a good speaker for moving on immediately and not pressing it.

    GameHat on
  • witch_iewitch_ie Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    This is somewhat late, but wanted to toss it out there - when you're practicing your speech, you should do so while doing something else with your body, like folding laundry or gardening. This comes from the idea (I don't know whether it's accurate) that when you're speaking, you're using two parts of your brain - one for the actual words and content you're sharing and one for taking in the audience's reaction and making hand gestures. Strange as it may seem, if you practice your speech while doing other things, you'll feel less nervous about forgetting words or whatnot while that other part of your mind is distracted by your audience.

    witch_ie on
  • TopiaTopia Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    All I can offer up to you is what I did all throughout high school. Asked to go first. Every single time. It may seem stupid, but if you can go first, all eye's are on you. Then there's what, 10, 15 people after you? People will forget about you. UNLESS you did good. If they remember you at all in this case, they will remember the good. After going first over and over, I realised, slowly, that there is nothing to fear. I can speak publicly without any fear now. Another thing that causes a problem with public speaking for people is self-confidence. I used to be self-confident as well. Always thinking what people might think of me, not speaking, but looks wise. If this is any bit you, you need to work on that. It might not be a concious concern to you unless you really think about it now, but I know a lot of people have this problem. You might have the best, greatest speech in the world, and know it, and still for some reason be scared to stand infront of everyone and speak? Think about is possibly being you self-conciousness.

    After I did all this not only can I perform public speeches infront of large groups, but I am a lot less self-concious, and I love it.

    Topia on
  • MotherFireflyMotherFirefly Registered User
    edited October 2007
    I have this same fear as well. Usually if I have an audience I look over their heads, if not and teachers require "eye contact" then look at the forehead. It's usually the same idea.

    I also slightly yell. People really misconstrue a strong voice with "confidence" it'll make you think you're more confident as well.

    MotherFirefly on
  • burntheladleburntheladle Registered User
    edited October 2007
    Practice your speech just before you go to bed - it's always helped it settle in my mind, and when I wake up I'm more comfortable with it.

    I second going first if you can - it means you stress about it for the least possible amount of time, and you don't compare yourself to other speakers quite so much.

    If you do get to use PP, remember you can just use it for visuals, you don't always have to put text in there. This is how I always used powerpoint - I'd have it up if I needed to show a map or a particular image, not for notes.

    If you do need palm cards, have them in the form you're most comfortable with. For awhile, I'd write notes on palm card sized bits of paper, then staple one edge together because I was always getting nervous and dropping them. Then I gave up and just had a4 pages of an outline of my speech and went with that (not sure how your teachers will respond, none of mine ever cared but I did know some in the school who were very vehement about having "proper" palm cards.)

    burntheladle on
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