On July 31, I gave a presentation at the Anaheim Central Library about public speaking. These events are as much a learning experience for me as they are for those in the audience. Here are some of the points I covered and things I learned.
Fear of public speaking is real and can be addressed
We’ve all seen public speaking on lists of our greatest fears, and it’s often ranked higher than the fear of death. Jerry Seinfeld may be right when he said, “If you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” What’s up with that?
When we speak, we make ourselves vulnerable. We risk looking foolish. We face criticism. Or we may face something scarier: People like our presentation so much that they want us to speak again.
We can address those fears through knowledge and experience. We can prepare ourselves by gathering information our audience needs. We talk to others who have given presentations to this group before. We can learn how to engage with them, how much detail they need, and what type of responses to expect. And once we have gone through the experience, we gain confidence and learn how to improve in future talks.
Part of that experience comes from making mistakes. We don’t have to be perfect, even when we have too many ahs and ums or stumble over our words. Audiences, if they notice at all, tend to forgive. What matters is that you give them the information they need. Polish will come from practice.
The group asked you to speak because they believe you have something valuable to tell them. The audience is on your side, and they understand how much courage it takes to get up in front of them. Knowing this can give you the confidence to speak up.
The key to talking on television is to act like you’re not talking on television
What do you do when you’re confronted with the ultimate speaking situation, talking on television? This happened to me in January when I was interviewed while waiting for Representative Katie Porter’s first town hall.
The key to talking on television is to act like you’re not talking on television. During the interview, I spoke directly to the reporter, Eileen Frere. She was the one asking the questions, and more importantly, she held the microphone. If there is an unpardonable sin in TV, it’s bad audio.
Eileen and I spoke for about a couple of minutes. The sound bite you heard was just the answer to one of her questions. I didn’t have anything clever in mind, which would wind up sounding more fake than memorable.
I paid no attention to the cameraperson during this interview. I figured he’d pick the right angle, which he did. The effect is that you, as the viewer, feel like you’re eavesdropping on a conversation. Since the reporter is out-of-frame, it looks like I could be talking to you and answering the questions you might have asked.
Even when our face and words are being broadcast throughout the community, we need to act natural and be ourselves.
The importance of being honest
I spoke about the importance of answering honestly. During the Q & A, an audience member passed on something a person said at a meeting, “If you’re in a job interview and don’t know an answer, just make something up.” The audience member and I both agreed this is awful advice. If you don’t get terminated outright for lying, your false claims of skills and experience will eventually catch up with you. You set yourself up for failure by getting hired for a job you can’t do.
Building a reputation for honesty makes you valuable. Even if listeners don’t like the answers you give, they still depend on you for truthful feedback. This is another way the truth makes you free.
Finding your voice
At this presentation and a panel I participated in at the Muzeo earlier in the week, a question came up about how people can find their voice. We do this by recognizing that we have something valuable to say. Each of us has experience and information that can benefit someone. Our fears often hold us back, but we can overcome them through knowledge and practice. We also find our voice by being honest and being ourselves, even when we’re on television.
Public speaking is a valuable skill we can master. By learning to get up and speak, we benefit our audiences, our communities, and ourselves.