Public speaking! Don’t you think it’s an interesting subject? A lot of stuff is available in books as well as online. I really admire the outstanding work done by Dale Carnegie to help people to come out of fear of public speaking. Long back I had read some of his amazing books related to this subject & implemented various key principles in my life.
Why do people enroll in public speaking training? One and all have confessions like “When I am called upon to stand up and speak, I become so self-conscious, so frightened, that I can’t think clearly, can’t concentrate, can’t remember what I had intended to say.” Or “I want to gain self-confidence, poise, and the ability to think on my feet. I want to get my thoughts together in a logical order and I want to be able to say my say clearly and convincingly before a business group or audience.”
“There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.”– Alexander Gregg
Years ago, a gentleman called D.W. Ghent joined Carnegie’s public speaking course. Shortly after the opening session, he invited the writer to lunch with him in the Manufacturers’ Club. He was a man of middle age and had always led an active life; was head of his own manufacturing establishment. While having lunch that day, he leaned across the table and said: “I have been asked many times to talk before various gatherings but I have never been able to do so. I get so fussed, my mind becomes an utter blank: so I have side-stepped it all my life. But I am chairman now of a board of college trustees. I must preside at their meetings. Do you think it will be possible for me to learn to speak at this late date in my life?”
“Do I think, Mr. Ghent?” Dale replied. “It is not a question of my thinking. I know you can, and I know you will if you will only practice and follow the directions and instructions.”
After he had completed his training, they lost touch with each other for a while. In 1921, they met and lunched together again at the Manufacturers’ Club. They sat in the same corner and occupied the same table that they had had on the first occasion. Reminding him about the former conversation, the writer asked him to share his experience. He took a little red-backed notebook out of his pocket and showed a list of talks and dates for which he was booked. “And the ability to make these,” he confessed, “the pleasure I get in doing it, the additional service I can render to the community—these are among the most gratifying things in my life.”
Here are the four public speaking essentials from the book ‘How to Develop Self Confidence and Improve Public Speaking’ by Dale Carnegie.
#1 First Start with a Strong and Persistent Desire
This is far more important than you probably realize. If your instructor could look into your mind and heart now and ascertain the depth of your desires, he could foretell, almost with certainty, the swiftness of the progress you will make. If your desire is pale and flabby, your achievements will also take on that hue and consistency. But, if you go after this subject with persistence, and with the energy of a bulldog after a cat, nothing underneath the Milky Way will defeat you.
Therefore, arouse your enthusiasm for this study. Enumerate its benefits. Think of what additional self-confidence and the ability to talk more convincingly in business will mean to you. Think of what it may mean to you socially; of the friends it will bring, of the increase of your personal influence, of the leadership it will give you. And it will give you leadership more rapidly than almost any other activity you can think of or imagine.
It is an attainment that almost every person of education longs for. After Andrew Carnegie’s death, there was found, among his papers, a plan for his life drawn up when he was thirty-three years of age. He then felt that in two more years he could so arrange his business as to have an annual income of fifty thousand dollars; so he proposed to retire at thirty-five, go to Oxford and get a thorough education, and “pay special attention to speaking in public.”
#2 Act Confidently
To develop courage when you are facing an audience, act as if you already have it. Of course, unless you are prepared, all the acting in the world will avail but little. But granted that you know what you are going to talk about, step out briskly and take a deep breath. In fact, breathe deeply for thirty seconds before you ever face your audience. The increased supply of oxygen will buoy you up and give you courage.
Do not nervously button and unbutton your coat, and fumble with your hands. If you must make nervous movements, place your hands behind your back and twist your fingers there where no one can see the performance—or wiggle your toes. As a general rule, it is bad for a speaker to hide behind furniture, but it may give you a little courage the first few times to stand behind a table or chair and to grip them tightly—or hold a coin firmly in the palm of your hand.
Take the offensive against your fears. Go out to meet them, battle them, conquer them by sheer boldness at every opportunity. Have a massage, and then think of yourself as a courier boy instructed to deliver it. We pay slight attention to the boy. It is the courier that we want. The message—that is the thing. Keep your mind on it. Keep your heart in it. Know it like the back of your hand. Believe it feelingly. Then talk as if you were determined to say it. Do that, and the chances are ten to one that you will soon be master of the occasion and master of yourself.
#3 Know Thoroughly What You are Going to Talk About
Unless a man has thought out and planned his talk and knows what he is going to say, he can’t feel very comfortable when he faces his auditors. He is like the blind leading the blind. Under such circumstances, your speaker ought to be self-conscious, ought to feel repentant, ought to be ashamed of his negligence. “I was elected to the Legislature in the autumn of 1881,” Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his Autobiography, “and found myself the youngest man in that body. Like all young men and inexperienced members, I had considerable difficulty in teaching myself to speak. I profited much by the advice of a hard-headed old countryman. The advice ran: ‘Don’t speak until you are sure you have something to say, and know just what it is; then say it, and sit down.’”
This “hard-headed old countryman” ought to have told Roosevelt of another aid in overcoming nervousness. He ought to have added: “It will help you to throw off your embarrassment if you can find something to do before an audience—if you can exhibit something, write a word on the blackboard or point out a spot on the map, or move a table or throw open a window, or shift some books and papers—any physical activity with a purpose behind it may help you to feel more at home.” True it is not always easy to find an excuse for doing such things, but there is the suggestion. Use it if you can, but use it the first few times only. A baby does not cling to chairs after it learns to walk.
#4 Practice! Practice! Practice!
The last point we have to make here is emphatically the most important. Even though you forget everything you have read so far, do remember this: the first way, the last way, the never-failing way to develop self-confidence in speaking is—to speak. Really the whole matter finally simmers down to but one essential: practice, practice, practice.
It may affect a man the first time he has to speak to a large audience just as it may affect him the first time he sees a buck-deer or goes into battle. What such a man needs is not courage, but nerve control and cool-headedness. This he can get only by actual practice. He must, by custom and repeated exercise of self-mastery, get his nerves thoroughly under control. This is largely a matter of habit; in the sense of repeated effort and repeated exercise of willpower. If the man has the right stuff in him, he will grow stronger and stronger with each exercise of it.”
Do you want to get rid of your audience fear? Let us see what causes it. Fear is the result of a lack of confidence and what causes that? It is the result of not knowing what you can really do. And not knowing what you can do is caused by a lack of experience. When you get a record of successful experience behind you, your fears will vanish; they will melt like night mists under the glare of a July sun. One thing is certain: the accepted way to learn to swim is to plunge into the water.