Many people dislike speaking in front of groups of people. For some, size doesn’t even matter. The fear, anxiety and stress make giving speeches agonising. But, what if practising can help? Science is showing that practice maybe does make perfect (or at least improve results!).
You are usually your own biggest critic
When you are faced with giving a speech, how do you feel? Does your heart do a flip-flop in your chest? This is a standard response for many of us, especially if you don’t have much experience with public speaking. Talking in front of a small meeting may even be intimidating.
Fortunately, neuroscience has a possible solution. A study conducted on the control of prosthetics has found that humans and primates can control robotic limbs and computer cursors via electrode arrays that are placed in their brains. Neural changes occurred as learning occurred, and neurons eventually stabilized with practise (Sedwick, 2009).
Practise your speeches aloud
to help train your brain
Your brain needs to be exercised, just like any other part of your body. Mental stimulation keeps your brain healthy. Be honest with yourself. Can you really just ‘wing’ a big presentation or speech? Can you come up with answers to questions without anticipating the questions? For most of us, the answer is probably a big NO.
“90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform”
If you are a person who panics at the idea of speaking to a crowd, the first step is to breathe. Stop worrying for a minute and take a moment of silence. You can give a great speech, you just need to practise first. Stand in front of your mirror. Try out taglines or jokes (if appropriate) on family members or pets. Talk it over in your car on your commute. When you do practise, try not to worry about the speech itself, and concentrate on what you want to communicate.
If you have no qualms at all about getting in front of people, congratulations! Take a look at the quality of your speeches and see if a little practise could improve the flow of what you are saying. Is your message clear and coherent,and given in a
Communication is the key, no matter how comfortable you are with public speaking
Communication is crucial in today’s world. Never before have humans been more connected, and virtual conversations can happen from anywhere on the globe (or even the space station) in mere seconds. With this instant communication comes the possibility of collaboration, which can be difficult for some people as well.
The can improve your communication and collaboration abilities, as the skills that you will learn will help you chunk large, complex ideas into smaller, more manageable pieces. A leadership role requires you to effectively communicate with others, and learning these techniques can help you do so.
Neuroscience is helping us understand what types of communications transmit best to the human mind, and you can use this knowledge to improve your own speaking style. While you won’t ever attain perfection, you can certainly become more comfortable and knowledgeable about giving a speech or presentation.
Sedwick, C. (2009). Practice Makes Perfect: Learning Mind Control of Prosthetics. PLoS Biology, 7(7), e1000152. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000152