Students learn how to effectively deliver a speech

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Instructor gives tips on how to overcome speaker anxiety

By Emily Garcia

Improving body language, managing anxiety, using visual aids and note cards, managing the rate and tone of voice, dressing appropriately and controlling movements are techniques that improve delivery of speeches, a speech instructor said Oct. 5 at a workshop sponsored by the speech program.

“The more positive body posture you have, standing tall with your hands out of your pockets, the more successful your speech will be because you look and feel confident,” Instructor Justin Blacklock said.

Better body language, such has standing straight with arms open or uncrossed, gives the speaker more confidence, Blacklock said.

Speech workshops are held by the speech program to help students develop public speaking skills. The next one will be 3-4 p.m. Nov. 2 in Room 203 of McAllister Fine Arts Center.

It is normal for people to experience speaker anxiety, or glossophobia, before giving a speech, Blacklock said.

“Seventy-four percent of Americans fear public speaking, but it is important to remember that the audience is just as nervous as you are because they are all sitting there waiting to give their speeches too,” Blacklock said.

A technique to cope with glossophobia is called visualization, or self-fulfilling prophecy, where speakers visualize themselves having a successful speech, Blacklock said.

In speech communication courses, students learn about self-fulfilling prophecy where anything someone thinks, whether negative or positive, is more likely to happen just because the person thinks it will happen, Blacklock said.

Another technique to cope with glossophobia is systematic desensitization, where the speaker must practice the speech and take every opportunity to speak in front of others to become used to speaking, Blacklock said.

In a technique called cognitive restructuring, the speaker must readdress the fear of public speaking and try to see public speaking as something positive instead of negative, Blacklock said.

Visual aids are important to effective delivery of speeches as well but should not be overwhelming.

Keep all visual aids, such as PowerPoint presentations, uniform and simple, Blacklock said.

“Organize the speech first and then think about what to put on your slides at the end,” Blacklock said.

Only use photos to enhance the meaning behind the speech, but limit them to no more than two pictures per slide, Blacklock said.

“Don’t take away from your own words by putting too much on a presentation,” Blacklock said. “The less text on a presentation the better because no one should be distracted trying to read a slide while you’re talking.”

Note cards are a smart thing to have while delivering a speech, but make sure to practice with them first, Blacklock said.

Note cards can be used to write key topics so the speaker can refer to them as the speech is delivered, Blacklock said.

“If you don’t practice with note cards, the movement between cards as you go through the speech can throw you off and you could lose your place,” Blacklock said.

It is also helpful to number the cards and only write on one side of the cards so that the cards are always in the right order, Blacklock said.

Having a presentable physical appearance is another important key to effective delivery of a speech.

“Always dress to impress, just the same as posture effects confidence, the better dressed you are the better you’ll feel about yourself,” Blacklock said.

When deciding what to wear for the speech, consider the occasion, the audience, the topic and the image to be projected, Blacklock said.

A speaker who is effective is always prepared, Blacklock said.

“Sleep well the night before the speech because if you don’t you will risk not having energy the next day, and your brain will not work as well as you progress through your speech,” Blacklock said.

Always eat breakfast and never be late to the venue of the speech, Blacklock said.

As the speech is being delivered, it is important to keep in mind the rate and tone of the words being spoken, Blacklock said.

“Sound energetic and like you are interested in what you are talking about, but don’t talk too fast and high-pitched,” Blacklock said. “Also, don’t slow down too much to the point where you are slow and monotone.”

It is important that all words are pronounced correctly and articulated clearly so that the audience can understand the speaker, Blacklock said.

If any words are mispronounced, it takes away from the speaker’s credibility.

The speaker must have positive facial expressions for the audience to be drawn in.

“Just as you are speaking energetically about your speech, also look energetic about it, not like you are at a funeral,” Blacklock said.

People are more likely to listen to the speech if the speaker is making eye contact around the room.

“Making eye contact can actually decrease anxiety for the speaker because the more eye contact the speaker makes, the more the speaker realizes that people are actually listening,” Blacklock said.

Only hold eye contact with audience members for no more than four seconds to avoid awkwardness, Blacklock said.

Movement around the room and gesturing to emphasize topics are accepted, but don’t overdo it, Blacklock said.

“Always have motivation behind every movement and gesture with what you are saying, otherwise too much movement can be distracting,” Blacklock said.

Students with questions regarding how to effectively deliver a speech can contact Blacklock at 210-486-0479 or


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