Lights, Camera, Action: More Exercises in Technical Communication

Clockworks, May 1996 ... Dr. Susan Jonas, Managing Director ... Ensemble Studio Theatre ... Ph.D. in dramaturgy from ... Yale

Tips For Successful Speaking

Know the room.
Be familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early, walk around speaking area and practice using the microphone and visual aides.

Know the audience. Greet some of the audience as they arrive. It's easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of stranger.

Know your material. If you're not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Practice your speech and revise it if necessary.

Relax. Ease tension by doing exercises.

Visualize yourself giving your speech. Image yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and assured. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful.

Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They don't want you to fail.

Don't apologize. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you may be calling the audience's attention to something they hadn't noticed.

Concentrate on the message, not the medium. Focus the audience's attention away from your own anxieties and toward your message. Your nervousness will dissipate.

Turn nervousness into positive energy. Harness your nervous energy and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.

Get experience. Experience builds confidence, and confidence is the key to effective speaking.

... According to Jonas, the objective of performance is to "exert control over what is perceived," to be in control of what the audience feels. If this is accomplished, the performance is not only more impressive but it is also easier for the audience to follow and stay interested. Performance is not only a matter of "saying the words" but is also a non-verbal means of control, which uses presentation techniques ranging from voice inflection to eye-contact to humor and spontaneity.

If an audience is interested by the information and made to feel comfortable by the speaker, it will more easily be persuaded by both and the speaker will be more effective in making his technical arguments. Most important, notes Jonas, "the goal of developing performance skills is to be in control of what you communicate." A speaker is always communicating information, whether intentionally or not. Someone who hides behind a prop or remains silent communicates as much to the audience as speaking lines at center stage does.

By engaging the audience in the beginning, providing them with signposts to revisit throughout the talk, and by concluding with one or two main points, a speaker can convey excitement and knowledge and can persuade a listener of his or her point of view. A welcome must sound sincere, visual material in the talk must not be overwhelming or distracting, and a speaker must be interested in his material if he expects an audience to be. ... Dr. Jonas also commented on the voice quality of various speakers, noting that students with an accent needed to speak more slowly and clearly to give their audiences time to adjust to their speaking quality.

Opening with a question, telling a story, using an anecdote, or employing an everday example familiar to the listener were deemed excellent ways to engage the audience and make them an active participant in a presentation. On the other hand, a joke only works when it appears you are telling it more to yourself than to the audience, cautioned (Dr. Susan) Jonas.

"What am I talking about? Who am I talking to? How do I want them to feel?" These are some of the questions each presenter needs to ask in order to develop a successful presentation. Another way to look at the same questions is to imagine oneself a host welcoming an audience, a guide taking them on a tour, and an expert giving final conclusions.

Points to keep in mind when giving a talk: