Public Speaking in PR

img_1158By: Julie Hogan

I am sitting in a classroom full of my peers, when IT happens. I am summoned to the front of the classroom, and the time has come for me to get up and give my speech. My heart starts to pound, throat closes up, and the bodily shakes are obvious. Luckily this was my freshman year of college, and I have given enough speeches since then that I no longer get obviously nervous.

The fear of public speaking plagues about 75% of people today and can even be deemed as a phobia, glossophobia to be exact. Even more of the population has stated they would rather die than give a speech.

For professionals who go into fields in which speaking in front of crowds is necessary, the careers become significantly less enticing. When I first investigated the fields of Public Relations and Communication, my only hesitation of identifying myself with the majors was a fear of public speaking.

I was assured plenty of times that while there are plenty of opportunities to give speeches in these careers, public speaking was not the sole task I would be required to accomplish. With this reassurance and the knowledge that I would only have to take two major speech courses to graduate, I finally declared my double major.

While taking my first major speech course, I have realized just how important public speaking skills are for any profession. You may be called upon to give a five minute debrief on what you have been working on to your boss and colleagues in any field. Don’t you think public speaking skills would come in handy in this type of situation? The answer is absolutely!

Ketchum, a global public relations firm, offers some tips for Public Relations professionals, specifically, to get over the fear of public speaking:

  1. Speak slowly – People tend to talk quickly in public speaking situations to “get it over with.” This is not the right mindset as audiences will often feel as uncomfortable as the speaker when a 20 minute speech turns into five minutes. Little stumbles over words due to slower speaking is better than confusing the audience.
  2. Look carefully – Eye contact is one of the best tips for a public speaker. Instead of thinking about the 15 people you have to talk to, think about the 15 individuals you will have a conversation with. It will ease your nerves and create a better experience for the audience.
  3. Lighten up and emote happiness – Speaking loudly and smiling shows confidence. Often the audience will feel the same emotion as you bring to the table while speaking. If you seem to be happy and confident, the audience will feel the same and think your speech was better than you thought. Fake the confidence until it no longer has to be faked, until you no longer get nervous to speak.
  4. Tell stories – People relate better to speakers who tell stories because who doesn’t like stories? As public relations professionals, we are to tell the story of our organization daily, so be sure to convey the story in a public speaking situation.

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