Moving from Print to Public Speaking

In “From Knocking Knees to Speaking with Ease,” published in the December issue of School Nutrition, Penny McLaren discusses tips for improving both confidence and skill with public speaking. The article recommends joining a training organization, such as Toastmasters International, preparing in advance and practice, practice, practice. Donald Feldheim, head of Expressive Communications Services, a firm based in Massachusetts, coaches speakers in order to achieve quality presentations. This is one of his latest success stories:

An extremely talented senior editor of a well-known and influential newspaper found that his job description was changed to include making crucial oral presentations to small groups of people who were critical to the success of the newspaper.

Speaking extemporaneously, he is extremely knowledgeable about his field, thinks easily and clearly on his feet and, to top it off, is very quick-witted.

As exceptional a writer as he is, and as good an extemporaneous communicator as he is, he confessed that he was very apprehensive (as an understatement) about delivering a structured presentation without a script in front of him. He felt he would not remember his lines. Furthermore, even if he had a script, the man had absolutely no confidence that he could do a speech due to his nervousness.

To help him to prepare for this new responsibility, we went back to square one and took it one step at a time.

First, we clarified his goal and objectives.

Then, we worked on putting his ideas down on paper, writing, essentially, the first draft of his presentation. As is the case with many speakers, we found that he did not write the way that he spoke conversationally; therefore, when reading his presentation aloud, it did not sound as natural as his regular speech.

So, we worked on rewrites...and more rewrites, until his written word reflected his normal, confident, comfortable conversational word. His statements became shorter, less complex and had less "flowery" wording.

Finally, we worked on his ability to present his speech without looking at his script. This entailed a very gradual process, which involved becoming more and more familiar with key phrases and words. This process helped him to gain confidence—and, with confidence, nervousness shrinks big time.

As a result, the client delivered his presentations smoothly and effectively—much to his delight—and surprise.

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