Friday, July 25, 2014

Can you hear me now?

Today’s class consisted of a public speaking workshop lead by Dr. Jennifer Madden.  The majority of the girls in my class admitted to a fear of public speaking, which apparently is very common (in fact it is often ranked as society’s #1 fear, followed by fire, death, and snakes.  I think people need to prioritize better, but that’s just my opinion...).   We learned about the different strategies to appear confident in both ourselves and in our material; confidence is the single most important element in public speaking.  Basically, if you aren't confident, then you just have to fake it ‘til you make it and be aware of the three main elements of public speaking. The audience’s attention is mainly focused on 3 components: visuals, vocals, and the message being conveyed. 

Visuals make up roughly 60% of what the audience actively pays attention to and include things such as body language, eye contact, and movement.  As far as body language goes, you want to have good posture and take up as much space as possible (which is hard for me considering that I’m only 5’3”); this conveys authority to the audience. Eye contact helps to convey trustworthiness and a personal connection, both of which help to establish the speaker’s ethos.  Movement is also important: gestures tend to open you up. However, avoid nervous or non-specified movements—always move with purpose and make sure to use it to your advantage (for example to emphasize your point)!

An estimation of 30% of the audience’s attention is focused on vocals.  A speaker’s vocals are mainly comprised of intonation, volume, word choice, and pauses. For maximum effectiveness, one must breathe from the diaphragm for a deeper, more assertive (assertiveness is important, but keep away from aggression—a defensive audience is a bad audience) tone.  As far as volume goes, the louder you are the more RIGHT you are! Not really… that’s horrible advice, but you should always speak slightly louder than you feel is necessary.  Word choice is also important—avoid babbling at all costs; always have an idea of what you’re planning to say BEFORE you say it.  Another nervous tick to avoid is meta-commenting (saying phrases such as “Sorry, I forgot what I was going to say!”); it makes the conversation awkward. Instead embrace the silence and use it to recapture your thoughts. Brief silences can also be used to your advantage; they can be used to create suspense, moments of reflection, demonstrates utter control, etc.  Basically, think before you speak!

Finally, the last aspect of public speaking is the actual message, which holds a mere 10% of the audience’s focus.  Ideally, the “goal” (what do you want?) is both specific and acheivable.  Not only that, but there has to be a balance of ethos (the ethics and credibility of the speaker), pathos (emotional manipulation, balance), and logos (logic, constructed arguments, statistics, etc.).  On a more cynical note, a well-constructed argument/speech looks at the subject from the audience’s perspective, more specifically WIIFM (What's In It For Me?).  This serves to keep the audience involved, and the WIIFM must include incentives on both an intrinsic (individual) and extrinsic (the greater good) level. Always end your speech with a SINGLE conclusion and a call for action!

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