By : Damon Hopkins
Submitted 2009-04-23 15:06:36
Whether you’re standing before an audience of businesspeople or your classmates, the effect is the same. All of your preparation flies out the window, your knees knock together and you must force yourself to take the stage. Public speaking is a terrifying experience for most people, but it need not be. Most people would rather have a root canal performed than speak in front of a group of people. However, performing well in this environment is not as difficult as it sounds. In fact, it can be an enjoyable experience once you get past your fear of public speaking.
To succeed in the corporate world and to some extent your own personal world, overcoming your fear of public speaking is essential. Which poses the questions: How do you get past this seemingly insurmountable obstacle? How do you bury that fear deep in your heart and not let it overwhelm your defenses? How do you survive such a ghastly ordeal?
1. It’s Not as Bad as It Seems
The very first thing you need to understand is that it is not as bad as it seems. You are focusing on the bad things, the things that might happen or could happen that would make you seem foolish or unprepared, that would make your audience laugh in derision, rather than in good humor. Such fears are natural, but baseless. The audience is not there to laugh at you; they have no desire to pick apart your performance looking for absurdities. They have come to hear you speak. They believe you have valuable information to impart and they want to know what you have to say. They obviously place a great deal of value on your opinion and expertise; else, they would have found somewhere else to go.
2. Everyone Experiences a Fear of Public Speaking
Everyone experiences a fear of public speaking, no matter how experienced a speaker they might be. This is important to understand – everyone feels the same fear, the same trepidation. Everyone gets the same butterflies in their stomach and experiences the same sweat-slicked palms; even those with years of experience under their belts still succumb to the fear of public speaking. So what does this tell you? It tells you two things: first, the fear you feel is natural and nothing of which to be ashamed. Second, it tells you that you are not alone and if you work through it, you can reap tremendous rewards.
3. You are the Expert – You were Chosen to Speak for a Reason
Perhaps you have the most in-depth understanding of a particular product’s features. Perhaps you are responsible for developing and implementing new techniques with wide-ranging ramifications. Maybe you are the only person who understands your company’s new product/service and must explain how it works to potential investors or even to company sales reps. Regardless of the reason, you are the expert – it was no mere accident you were chosen to speak at this event. You have important, vital, unique information to impart, which brings enormous value to your audience. This is your chance to share your information, so that alone should help you resolve your fear for public speaking.
4. Understand the Value You Bring to the Table
Once you understand the value you bring to the table, the rest of the process is very simple. While overcoming that fear of public speaking might seem impossible, you can use numerous techniques to help you move past it. For instance, meditation-style breathing techniques, used before you take the stage, will help slow your racing heart and stem the flood of adrenaline surging through your body.
Remember that the audience is likely not going to notice your sweating palms or your nervousness; in many ways, fear of public speaking is simply all in your mind. Having a positive mindset and the right outlook on the event will help you move past this fear. Remember, you are the expert here, take that to heart, and all else will fall into place and you can confidently deliver your engaging speech.
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When you sing, DROP THE JAW! This is one “good habit” worth acquiring. (Unlearn faulty habits, kids.) Let your jaw unhinge quietly as you open the mouth. The action is similar to yawning.
Some people may sing the right notes but do not always possess the beauty of the full, ringing tone in the voice because they have not developed the VERTICAL sound. Yes, many singers today fall short. Sadly, even the fans have accepted the mediocrity of their “idols” and emulate these poor role models.
Many people have said Josh Groban has an angelic voice. This is very true. If you will listen as he sings the likes of “You’re Still You” and “Always” you will momentarily fall into a state of trance, to say the least especially if it is your first time to listen to him. Why is that? He captivates your ears with that pure, clean, and ringing voice so beautiful your eyes start to moisten. Look at the way he opens his mouth. That’s the way to do it. Let us take a moment to talk about it.
When we yawn, our mouths naturally open downward. This is our body’s natural (instinctive) way of opening wide our oral cavity to facilitate a wide room and passageway for the large amount of air we take in and eventually breathe out. Now, let’s learn from it. If we are to produce good sound, we must open our mouth vertically. It also provides an arch at the roof of our mouth which serve as a natural sounding board. Take a look at these images.
If I may say so (without hearing any one of their voices), these people are singing properly; at least in this one area of singing. I extensively coach my singers to sing this way. The resultant sound is a whole lot better than when singers sing otherwise-i.e., horizontally. The voice is fuller, richer, and robust.
The reason I brought this topic is I observe many chorale directors forsaking this very important element in singing. Surely, we are already so familiar with the use of the diaphragm, the correct posture, the enunciation of the lyrics, et. al, thus I prioritized the “vertical sound” here given that it is always neglected by the very people who should have known. But of course, time will be given for those other equally important facets of singing.
Suffice it to say that we produce better tone when we sing vertically. Conversely, singing horizontally will tighten the throat and facial muscles which could result in a strained and less full voice. Or worse, this faulty singing habit could lead to vocal problems and even to serious medical conditions. This is how a singer looks like singing horizontally. It is straining to the vocal chords.
Many singers develop nodules due to the punishment they unconsciously inflict their vocal chords. So, be warned.
Practice Makes Permanent
I remember a voice coach repeatedly remind singers and say PMP. Make it a habit to sing vertically until it becomes second nature. Even in public speaking, it is being taught, if one wants to project a commanding voice and presence. As a matter of fact, we started out speaking this way. Did you guys notice the babies/kids on the singing images? Do you think somebody taught them to sing that way? It is in fact, innate in them. As people grow, they imbibe and absorb the faulty speaking and singing styles so prevalent in today’s music industry. These need to be unlearned if one aspires to sing correctly.
So, there. My initial tips on good singing. “Vertical vowels” and “Practice Makes Permanent”.