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Writing Training Scared To Death Of Public Speaking? Try Conversing

“According to most studies, people’s Number One fear is public speaking. Number Two is death. That means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ~John Steinbeck, novelist

Was Steinbeck talking about you? Is that an accurate reflection of your self-confidence when it comes to presentation skills or public speaking? If he was, I’ve got some advice: Think about a speech as a conversation between two intelligent people who care about effective communication. I find that when I take that approach, I’m not an actor all alone up there on a stage. Instead, I’m more of a partner in a dialogue that takes on energy and depth thanks to partners who listen and work with me.

In a conversation, avoiding eye contact would be rude, wouldn’t it? So why would you lower the lights and keep turning away from your partner to look at a PowerPoint presentation on a screen behind you?

I’ve already ranted about PowerPoint (see the July 13 posting below), so there’s no need to be so negative again. Any good conversation is two-way, a give-and-take, a natural form of communication skills that benefits both parties. Of course, with a speech, you have to start out by doing most of the talking. But everything you say should be directed at encouraging questions from audience members and a conversation among them. If you start by standing up and speaking, then find yourself facilitating a lively discussion, congratulate yourself. You can add public speaking to your growing list of communication skills.


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