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Public speaking tricks for beginners

Public speaking is a pretty scary thing for most people. All of those eyes staring at you, ready to laugh at you if you make the slightest mistake. It's no wonder that it's feared by so many people, even for some more than death. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld summed it up best by saying that, at a funeral most people would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.

As a Graphic Designer, I had had no training in public speaking. And the first time I got in front of an audience, during the beginning of my teaching career, at the Art Institute of Phoenix, I have to admit that it was a huge amount of work, and made me feel ill afterwards. Luckily, I turned to what I had learned from my client +JOEL WELDON and got busy inventing things to make public speaking easier for me. Here they are:

• Come prepared. I printed out stuff. I made sure that I had plenty of material. When I first started, I used an overhead projector with the information organized in bullet points. I always had the exact same material printed out as handouts, with bullet points. I brought along *show and tell* stuff, samples, that sort of thing. If someone tells you to walk out in front of an audience and just *wing it*, they are setting you up for a disaster.

• Smile. Think of the best performers you've ever seen. I am thinking of Joel. Smiling. Speaking for myself, I smile out of nervousness, so it worked well for me. I also smile when I'm happy, so that when I started getting the swing of things, the smile was genuine.

• Look at people in the audience. Don't lecture to the back wall. No, you don't have to call on them (it would be better if you didn't), but making eye contact is a good thing. Did I mention smiling? If there's someone in the audience who is obviously not paying attention, don't fixate on them. Find the faces that are looking at you, and listening to you. Talk to them. Don't talk to an audience, talk as if you were talking to people individually.

• Pay attention to feedback. If you sense a rumble of unrest in the audience, there probably is. But don't confuse people talking with people not paying attention to you. Many times people will become so excited about what you are talking about that they turn to the person next to them and talk about it. A little bit of talking in an audience, especially an adult one, is normal, and correct. Silence is not really what you want. Enthusiastic people are not silent.

• Answer questions right away. Don't ever, ever, tell people to hold their questions until after the lecture. If it's an important question, use it as a springboard to keep interest high. If it's distracting, find a way to diffuse it. And after you answer a question, if you can't remember where you were, ask the audience. If you are doing a good job, they will help.

And no, the butterflies in your stomach never go away. The best you can do is to make them fly in formation!