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Speaking Tips from Jim Rhode
By Jim Rhode   Printer Friendly Version

Even the most experienced speakers can feel panic at the thought of stepping up to the podium. And who hasn't heard about certain performers who experience extreme "stage fright?"

It is hard to even imagine the intense pressure actors must feel facing a nightly performance of an acclaimed Broadway production! Yet on they go, night after night. The very talented singer, Barbara Streisand is notorious for her fear of singing in public. Yet when she conquers that fear, the result is incredible.

Earlier in my career, whether speaking to an audience of 4th graders during Children's Dental Health Month, or delivering an address to a professional dental organization, I felt temporary panic as I stepped before the group. My wife, Naomi and I have honed professional speaking skills over many years, while delivering literally thousands of presentations to groups worldwide.

Here are tips that can help you, no matter how challenging your assignment, or how fearful you may be.

1. Speakers are informers, not performers.

2. Professional speakers use a combination of memorization and improvisation.

3. The greatest fear of any speaker is "getting lost," not knowing what word comes next and then sheer panic sets in.

For example, Frank Sinatra used to say, "Before you go on the stage, you must know exactly what you are going to do! I ought to know ... Too many times I broke the rules ... and paid a price for it. Unless you already know the words to the tunes, you can't let your little boy out to play - can't choreograph your stuff, and can't have fun." Nelson Riddle, his musical director for years said of Frank, "At his best, Frank didn't sing a song - he did a song! When he was on stage there was a lot more going on than just the words he was singing, or the music I was playing. I got into trouble when he got 'cute' and changed the phrasing or sneaking in a different word or two."

Even the most experienced speakers can learn from the discipline, dedication, and professionalism illustrated by this anecdote. If you are too structured, you might as well let somebody else read your speech. Be prepared, get involved, and show your enthusiasm and you will be successful!

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