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Public speaking - me?!

Posted Oct 30 2008 6:02pm

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” (Jerry Seinfeld)

And what if you’re deaf and need to do public speaking? Isn’t it one of the most terrifying things to ask a deaf person to do? Hearing people are often too nervous to speak publicly, and avoid it where they can. But I usually enjoy it.

Why are people so scared of public speaking? A common reason is fear of looking foolish in front of an audience. But hey, when you talk to a friend, you are talking naturally and without nervousness. So why can this not be carried over to speaking to a group? A lot of people are scared of being judged by others. But give this some thought. Your friend is more likely to judge you than a stranger would, as he/she has a personal interest in you, whereas a stranger doesn’t.

Okay. You may think your contribution may be ridiculed, or that an audience will think your speech to be tosh. If you think this to be the case, remember they asked you to speak for a reason, to speak about what you already know. If you don’t, then you can arm yourself with the information beforehand. If you have a sense of humour, use it. (I can tell you, this works like a charm.) If you’re worried about projecting your voice loudly enough, use a microphone and speak to the person at the back of the room. If you’re not confident with technology such as Powerpoint presentations, don’t use it. Use other methods such as interactive group work, or a whiteboard, or even markers and paper - there are lots of different ways to get information across. If you’re worried they are all looking at you, don’t. They will be too busy concentrating, taking in the information being imparted to them.

Preparation is the key. Know your topic. Take control of your presentation and know your material. Rehearse. This will give you confidence.

Being deaf will naturally make this job trickier. Ensure you have the appropriate communication support you need, brief them beforehand and give them time to relay the dialogue or the sign language. Check beforehand with a hearing person, that you project your voice enough to be heard - you can practise in the empty room before the audience comes in. There is a device called a tactile speech simulator which may be useful, this alerts you to your correct voice level. I had a major problem with voice levels when I trained as a lip reading tutor, it took me many months to get this right. But once I did, it somehow stuck in my brain and I have been fine ever since. It is possible to get training on public speaking.

So, to recap.

  • Believe in yourself
  • Be confident
  • Play to your strengths
  • Know your topic
  • Prepare your presentation
  • We make our own boundaries - the only thing holding you back is yourself….

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