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How to begin and overcome the fear of public speaking

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

It's all around us: from spelling bees to wedding speeches, interviews, sales pitches, drama class- public speaking is a part of our life. So understand it and own it!

Demosthenes was one of the greatest and renowned Greek orators as well as a leading Greek statesman.

Born in 384 B.C., Demosthenes became one of Greece´s 10 official Athenian orators. His rise to fame in Ancient Greece and the subsequent story is something that I find very useful when explaining the basics and necessities of media training and presentation skills training.

Overcoming difficulty

“How comfortable are you when delivering a speech or presentation to an audience?

What do you do to prepare for this?

Or do you avoid it altogether?

How are you trying to improve your public speaking skills?

Throughout his childhood in Ancient Greece, Demosthenes suffered from a speech impediment in that he stammered and was inarticulate. This greatly handicapped not only his ability to deliver a speech but also depleted his self-confidence.

Despite his difficulties in public speaking, Demosthenes was recognized as an excellent writer. writer. At that time in Ancient Greece, any person involved in a trial was required to speak on his own behalf. As the custom was to hire a speechwriter, otherwise known as a logographer, Demosthenes decided to position himself as such and thus began writing speeches for use in private legal suits.

Demosthenes excelled in this role but became attracted to the politics of Athenian democracy. Given his background with speech impediments, word has it that he engaged the help of an actor to assist him in preparing a disciplined program in which he would learn to overcome this problem.

For months on end, Demosthenes practiced delivering speeches concentrating on his words, his body language, and his articulation. According to Plutarch, Demosthenes would put small pebbles in his mouth while practicing so as to master perfect articulation.

The non-verbal language was one of Demosthenes' fortes and according to Cicero (one of the great Roman orators that legend has was inspired by Demosthenes), he placed an unwavering effort in his delivery (gestures, movements, facial expressions) and considered non-verbal language more important than style.

We are not all born public speakers and, as history as demonstrated, even those best known for their talent in this specter learned to become great speakers.

The lessons taken from studying Demosthenes´ career are simple:

  1. Prepare, prepare, and prepare. Exceptional 20 -minute speeches are often skillfully prepared for many hours ahead of time. Public speaking skills are not intrinsic in all individuals. There are some people who are born for the stage and others who learn how to do well on stage. Whichever group you feel more affinity with, practicing your speech still goes a very long way.

  2. Use simple language, abandon jargon, and appeal to a wider audience.

  3. Learn how to occupy your space: investigate how to maximize your non-verbal communication and use it to your advantage.

  4. Don´t get mixed up in answering questions or talking about subjects you do not know. Deliver messages that you can master.

  5. Talk about subjects that are important to you. Demosthenes was impassioned by politics… that spirit gave life to his speeches. The audience will most certainly forget what you said in your speech in a short while following your presentation, however, the atmosphere, the ambiance, the feelings that you incite with energy and fervor are always remembered. Using your passion to fuel your public speaking will only benefit and highlight these skills when confronted with an audience.

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