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’.
“Some people like being the centre of attention and some people absolutely hate it.”T hey learn
that even though they are addressing a crowd, they should speak as if they are talking to one single person. We teach them how not to be stressed by a crowd.”
Ms Field says the public speaking courses are geared to meet the needs of small to medium-sized businesses as well as the large corporate organizations. Sometimes, she says, it is important to learn how to say less, and have more impact.
“People are taught the value of words and the necessity not to waffle if you want to build instant rapport with an audience. Getting the right words, learning how to use them directly and strategically helps get the points of your speech across effectively and seemingly effortlessly.
“Audiences understand and respect a speech or a presentation that cuts directly to what its real message is.
“People in business hear a lot of unnecessary words every day of their lives . . . and hearing an overloaded, droning or rambling speech just turns them off. After a while, they don’t really listen – the whole thing can be a waste of time.
“We also train people in PowerPoint skills, which, when learnt properly, can make presentations and speeches a lot more dynamic.
“And finally, we teach people the tips and tricks that professional speakers use to capture an audience.” — DAVID WILSON