How to Speak

19 March 2008 · 3 comments

Somebody — David Hatch? — sent me a link to a great video presentation a couple weeks ago. In this lecture, Patrick Winston of M.I.T. offers tips on how to give an effective talk. Winston’s remarks are geared specifically toward new teachers, training them how to give collegiate lectures. But I think they’re applicable to everyone.

As I delve further into this full-time blogging gig, I’m going to be required to do some public speaking. Just this past Sunday, KATU e-mailed to ask if they could interview me about the recession. I was busy and so declined, but it’s just a matter of time before I’m going to find myself in front of a camera. I want to be ready. I don’t want to crash and burn like I did on live radio in Seattle.

During my senior year of college, I took four speech communications classes. I loved them. I did well. Had I realized I enjoyed speech earlier, I would have tried to complete a fifth class, which would have given me a speechcom minor.

Because of this past experience, I’m not worried about speaking in front of small audiences. Later this month, I’ll give a presentation to a small group in San Francisco. I can do that. But the thought of speaking to many people — such as a radio or a television audience — paralyzes me.

It’s likely that I’ll join Toastmasters at some point (Dave, are you still going?), but until then, I’m researching other methods of learning. This video presentation is a great start.

1 Jason Unger March 19, 2008 at 08:36

I was a broadcast journalism major, so while I can’t claim to be an expert on being on-camera, here are a couple of tips:

– Relax. There’s really no reason to get tense or feel overwhelmed. It’s just a conversation between you and someone else.

– Go with the flow. A lot of first timers try to overdo it, instead of feeling the flow of the conversation like you would off camera.

– Be confident. Easier than it sounds, but your confidence is apparent when you are on display.

2 Red March 19, 2008 at 09:32

I’m taking a Stand up class starting at the end of this month.

I’d be curious how much overlap there is between this and your average speech class.

3 Paul J. March 19, 2008 at 20:57

With all due respect Jason’s tips don’t work. As a musician I can comment on what performance anxiety is like. There is no such thing as “just” relaxing or “just” “be confident”. The ONLY way to conquer this is with repetition, practice and preparation–you have to go through it often. Take as many opportunities in public speaking as you can. I always tell my students that are nervous about solos that the best insurance policy they have to shake the jitters is to know their material cold. If there is doubt in your mind about being unprepared it will wreak havoc on your nerves.

If you aren’t a bit nervous then it probably isn’t that exciting or worthwhile. Some of my best performances have been in pressure packed situations. Those experiences are by far the most satisfying.

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