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
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
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
Points to keep in mind when giving a talk: