Originally Published on The Age, 1 Sep 2007
FOR many people, public speaking is a nightmare. They become anxious and tense preparing for it - and by the time they make a speech, they are in a state of fear and under stress.
But public speaking has become an integral part of day-to-day business, and is increasingly demanded of employees and employers. Public speakers in business - or anywhere else - are expected to make an impact on their audiences.
T he skills of presentation, delivery and content often only come with confidence, and sometimes that is only acquired after formal lessons.
Judith Field, the owner and director of Direct Speech, is confident that her speech training courses dramatically help clients to achieve confidence and ability.
With more than 30 years' experience in public speaking, she can claim some expertise. She has trained people from all sizes of business, students and teachers from primary and secondary schools, and individuals interested in building up their public speaking skills.
Ms Field is the coordinator of literacy for the education department's online literacy program, has a small armful of training certificates, many testimonials and is a member of the National Speakers Association of Australia as well as Toastmasters.
She runs a three-week speaker-training course broken down into three two-hour sessions one night a week. The course has been running eight times a year since 2003.
Ominously, she says such is the anxiety about public speaking that "97 per cent of people would rather die than speak in public".
Learning to handle that anxiety is a key component of the course. "Most people's fears about public speaking are in their minds," she says.
"I get them to understand that their focus is wrong . .to change their focus to communicating what they are speaking about to their audience.
"Sometimes while they are training, they are still looking at me for a response. I change that by saying, 'It is what you have to say that is important when you are facing an audience'.