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 Disability Program Navigator: Navigator Frequently Asked Questions 

15(Advanced)  How can I improve my public speaking and presentation skills, and what resources and training are available?

According to The Book of Lists, the fear of speaking in public is the #1 fear of all fears. Over 41% of people have some fear or anxiety dealing with speaking in front of groups. If some of you had known how much public speaking you would be doing as a Disability Program Navigator, you may not have accepted the job! Although you may have initially understood the outreach component in your job description, no one probably could have guessed how this tremendous amount of outreach could lead to such a myriad of public speaking engagements. As your role as Navigator becomes more widely known and as you market the One-Stop services throughout the community, you will find yourself involved with a variety of interagency networking groups, action committees, and roundtables, as well as invited to resource fairs, forums, and conferences. During this initial phase, you are more of a ‘listener’ when attending interagency meetings, learning about all the community partners, key stakeholders and services/programs. However, there seems to be a turning point when your role shifts from the ‘listener’ to the ‘speaker’. You may be asked to present at agency staff meetings, consumer groups, conferences, or on a quarterly basis for your local Workforce Investment Board. You may also coordinate and present orientations and workshops for people who come into the One-Stops, as well as facilitate ongoing training for One-Stop staff. Whether you love the spotlight or still get the jitters in front of a group, your role as Navigator definitely involves being an effective communicator.

So, how do you know if you are an effective and engaging speaker? And if you are one of those 41% of people who experience stage fright, how can you get over your fears and improve your presentation and communication skills? Toastmasters, an international communication and leadership program in which people from all backgrounds can learn to become effective communicators and leaders, offers the advice that feeling some nervousness before speaking in public is natural and even beneficial. However, too much nervousness can be detrimental. Below are some tips to reduce your speech anxiety:

  • Know your material. Know more about the topic than you include in your speech. Use personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Practice your speech or presentation and revise it until you can present it with ease.
  • Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
  • Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
  • Relax. Ease tension by doing exercises. Breathe in slowly, hold your breath for 4 to 5 seconds, then slowly exhale. To relax your facial muscles, open your mouth and eyes wide, then close them tightly. Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
  • Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
  • 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. for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you'll only be calling attention to it.
  • Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
  • Gain experience. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. Most beginning speakers find their anxieties decrease after each speech they give.
  • Turn Nervousness into Positive Energy. The same nervous energy that causes stage fright can be an asset to you. Harness it, and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.

According to Overcoming Speaking Anxiety in Meetings & Presentations (LJL Seminars), everyone, even experienced speakers, has some anxiety when speaking in front of a group of people. The best way to deal with this anxiety is to first acknowledge that this fear is perfectly normal and you are not alone. To reduce your fear, you need to make sure you properly and thoroughly prepare yourself before you speak. Proper preparation and rehearsal can help to reduce this fear by about 75% . Proper breathing techniques can further reduce this fear by another 15%. Your mental state accounts for the remaining 10%. Most importantly, be yourself; allow your own personality to come across in your speech, and focus on the content of the message you are delivering.


  RESOURCES:

Toastmasters - http://www.toastmasters.org/

Power Point Sins - http://www.d70toastmasters.org/pdfs/PowerPoint_Sins.pdf

Presentation Sins - http://www.presentationskills.ca/Presentation-Sins.html

Overcoming Speaking Anxiety in Meetings & Presentations/LJL Seminars - http://www.ljlseminars.com/anxiety.htm

A Free Guide to Speech Writing & Delivery - http://www.speechtips.com/

Pinball wizards and skillful presenters have plenty in common (from presentations.com) -- http://www.presentations.com/presentations/delivery/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001738023

The Art of Communicating Effectively (from Presentation-Pointers.com) -- http://www.presentation-pointers.com/showarticle.asp?articleid=64. Includes tips on presentations.

10 Little-Known, Rarely Discussed, Highly Effective Presentation Techniques (from Presentation-Pointers.com) -- http://www.presentation-pointers.com/showarticle.asp?articleid=25.



Note to DPNs: If you have comments, suggestions or questions relating to the above topic, please email DJ Diamond at ddiamond@ndi-inc.org . They may be added to this FAQ and the archived one on the One-Stop Toolkit website.