I finally have the opportunity to give a speech that is written by myself to a crowd of a few hundred last night. The feeling of satisfaction and exhilaration is almost indescribable. The actual sense of elation is actually strongest towards the end when the crowd grants me a round of loud applause. I have strong reasons to believe that the recognition of my speech arises more from how I word the sentences and paragraphs than my speaking prowess (I have always take pride in myself in being an accomplished writer).
In the past, I have drafted speeches for others but do not have the opportunity to present the speech in person. After going through the entire process of writing, editing and speaking over a span of a few weeks for this speech, I find the journey to be both fulfilling and insightful. This experience (especially the satisfaction of delivering the speech myself) has served to remind me that although public speaking are often considered to be the number one fear among us, this phobia can be conquered if only we take the first step. And I figure that the factors leading to my success are these:
Focus on the message: Most of us will get excited when delivering a speech in front of a large crowd (which in this case, numbers in the hundreds). What I have done is to place my focus on delivering the message and telling myself that this message – once successfully delivered – will benefit the listening crowd, instead of placing the focus on myself, which will cause me to be self-conscious and thus increases the chances of fumbling.
Know that the audience is supporting you: I have developed an inner confidence that the members of the audience are supporting me and want me to succeed. This has pushed me on to complete the speech.
Go slow: I have made the effort to moderate my pace of presentation and monitored it constantly for this speech. Although I tend to speed up at times due to excitement, I always managed to catch myself and slow down my speech delivery almost immediately. Accordingly to the feedback from some of my friends, I have only increased the pace of my speech only once, which I feel is a good effort. And I believe that once you try it, you can do it better than me.
Look at every area of the crowd: Some of us have the perception that looking down at the script has the effect of reducing our nervousness. While this is true to a certain extent, this gesture often makes us look reserved and aversive, impressions that we certainly do not want to give to our audiences. So, do look at the audiences. Do not concentrate on a few specific individuals who make you look comfortable. Move your eyes in a sweeping fashion using the “left-center-right-center-left” approach repetitively. This makes us look confident and illustrates our intent to deliver our message across to our audiences. And seriously, it is not as scary as it sounds. Try it and see.
Adjust the distances between the microphone and ourselves: I am using a stationary microphone while speaking behind a lectern last night and I realise that controlling our volume can get tricky. It’s best to test the volume of our voices which are being projected prior to the actual presentation. Each of us speaks with a different volume and pitch and this can make a whole lot of difference when our voices are projected through the microphone. Controlling and optimising the distances between the microphone and ourselves is key to attracting and sustaining the audience’s attention.
Rehearsal: Try to have a few rehearsals and a sound test before the actual event. This has helped me substantially in familiarising myself with the actual setting where I am giving my speech.
On the whole, I have always favoured speaking freely in front of a live audience but for this speech that I have given last night, I have actually done it behind a lectern. This is something that I thought will be easy but realises it’s also rather challenging instead. I am glad for this opportunity but have realised that this experience has somehow humbled me quite a bit.
I have realised that public speaking – with or without a lectern – is equally challenging. Unless one is experienced and has done sufficient rehearsals, successful public speaking is meant only for those who are determined and with a strong focus to benefit one’s audiences with our messages.
I am glad that I have done relatively well for this public speaking opportunity.
And I look forward to many more.