On public speaking


It is a weird thing that we want to hear a writer give a presentation, when she has written on a subject. Accidentally I have become a writer and speaker on law libraries and other information issues. The impulse to hear a speaker stems from wanting to hear firsthand how the person “talks the walk,” or how students have traditionally learned in schools.

I was nervous the first time I was scheduled to give a talk, because my strength is writing over talking out ideas. But I turned to Connie Crosby, librarian extraordinaire, who encouraged me by turning the anxiety into something positive. She stated that people are silently cheering you on, when you are on stage. They are anticipating what you have to say, so they are receptive to your message.

Although the content of talk is important,  some research shows that appearance of the speaker and tone of voice can be more dominant than the message. Appearance can include style; for example, women should reconsider dangly earrings, which are distracting. There is a host of nonverbal cues that we subconsciously interpret, as smiling makes us seems more relaxed and friendly. Overall being dressed appropriately for your audience is the best advice.

Tone of voice is also critical. If you talk fast or have a high pitched voice, those traits can interfere with the listener’s ability to understand you.  A relaxed speaker varies the pitch of their voice, and one follows the flow of the speech easier. One trick is to record yourself to identify verbal ticks like “um” “like” etc.

Other nonverbal cues include audience interaction. I pick out 2 people in the audience about midway in the room and talk to them, maintaining comfortable eye contact. It has a transforming effect as one bonds with the audience members, drawing them into the conversation.

The best case scenario is, at the end of the talk, there will be questions furthering the discussion. You know you have done your job to inspire, or inform when the audience wants to talk back.

  • Brenda








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