The Ferguson Center
for Public Speaking
Claire E. Deal
Associate Professor of Rhetoric
Morton Hall, 114
The physiological and psychological changes that occur when a person faces a potentially threatening task -- speaking in public, for example -- are an indication of the body's readiness to respond. In this sense, some "stage fright" is a good thing -- its presence indicates that the speaker is gearing up for a task that matters -- one that demands his or her full concentration and effort. Speakers can learn to use this natural, heightened sense of readiness to their advantage by incorporating these tips:
Choose the topic wisely. Find something that will appeal both to you and your audience.
Prepare thoroughly. Give yourself enough time to research, organize, and practice your presentation. Stop by the Ferguson Center for one-to one assistance with all areas of speech preparation.
Be yourself. The audience wants you to succeed! Audience members are concerned with what you have to say, not with how you say it. A natural, conversational style coupled with a professional approach will help you to feel at ease.
Focus on the message, not the audience. What do you want the audience to gain from listening to your speech? Focus on that.
Use eye contact with the audience. Look at them and connect. Not only will you make the audience members feel important, you'll be able to see their responses so you can adapt your message if need be.
Incorporate gestures and movement if you wish. This is a great way to expend some of the excess energy you'll be generating.
Slow down. Give the audience time to process the information.
Incorporate visual aids in your presentation. Used wisely, visuals are a good way to break up the speech and take the focus off of you for a bit. Be sure to practice with the visuals so that incorporating them does not throw you.
Check out the performance space ahead of time. If possible, rehearse your presentation in the actual space.
Practice. Recruit friends, teachers, co-workers, or family members to serve as your rehearsal audience. Even better, come by the Ferguson Center and work with a consultant. If you'd like, the consultant can videotape your rehearsal and offer constructive feedback to help you improve.
Still nervous? Come visit the Ferguson Center. We're here to help.