Creativity unleashed by Sandra Yuen MacKay

Life and art from a unique perspective

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Public speaking

Posted by symackay on December 11, 2009 at 12:44 PM

I don't consider myself a natural public speaker because I don't memorize what I say. In the past, when I gave talks I needed things written out verbatim. However, if I used PowerPoint I think I could use the slides as a starting point and speak without using a word for word reference.

As a public speaker, it's important to engage your audience. Humour, asking questions, audience participation and interactive activities are useful tools.

I practice my speeches by speaking aloud slowly and clearly and timing myself. Taking pauses allows the listeners to digest the information. Making eye contact is good.

A question period after a talk allows for clarification and expansion. Listeners can zero in on things they wanted to understand better. I've been to talks where there were one or two up to fifteen or more questions. It depends a lot on the audience and the controversial aspects of the talk.

As a creative writing instructor in the past, I learned to listen and give feedback. Also I prepared an outline and kept the class moving so people would remain interested. I tried to keep the focus on writing and not get into personal discussions.

Teaching and public speaking both involve leading and holding the interest of the students or listeners. If you lose them halfway, you are less effective. Make sure you have something new to say. Be creative in how you express yourself. 

Some of us get nervous if we have to speak in public. My answer is to be well-prepared and focused. Make sure the content suits the audience. I speak to high school, college and post-graduate students so I alter the talk depending on the type of group that I'm addressing. What specific issues are pertinent to this group? What do they need to know that I can include in fifteen minutes? When speaking to families of mentally ill persons, I recognize the difficulties of being caregivers but also encourage them to raise awareness and fight for the rights of their loved one. Families can be good advocates for changes in the mental health system and funding for research.

Public speaking can be rewarding if you like applause. I've heard some people speak and they get a standing ovation. These speakers have overcome obstacles and moved forward to accomplish amazing things. They are eloquent and dynamic in content and delivery.

Some people shy away from being the center of attention. It can be scary for some, but if you focus on what you are communicating, and why it's important, that may alleviate some of the tension.

I always conclude by thanking my audience. So thank you for reading my blog!

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