Oh, the joy of public speaking. You get to stand up in front of your peers as they stare at you blankly. (You just know they are thinking about when this will be over, so they can go grab lunch.) You persevere regardless, until suddenly you forget what you were going to say. The silence stretches.
If only you had a good excuse, you think. Maybe a Death Eater has cast a petrificus totalus spell on me. Or I’ve been transported to that episode of Buffy where nobody could speak. (At least then your audience would be suffering along with you.)
But no, it’s only stage fright. How humiliating.
I used to really hate being in front of an audience. I took drama classes in high school to get over it. Trust me, after you’ve squawked like a chicken as part of a class exercise, nothing is embarrassing anymore.
If you’re like me, it will never be easy for you to speak in front of people. But you can definitely master it, and even be known for your fantastic presentations. Here’s some suggestions on how to get there:
- Rehearse. When a witch mixes up the words of her spell, she can accidentally summon a demon. (Oops!) You’re lucky—all you have to worry about is sounding like you know what you’re talking about. Grab an empty room and present to the wall. The first time you talk through it, you are going to feel like an idiot. Do it again and you’ll start to figure out what you want to say. By the third time, you’ll sound like a natural.
- Take your time. Pretend you are speaking in slow motion. This will help you go from too fast to just right. You will look and sound relaxed. This will fool your body into thinking it’s relaxed, too. As a bonus, your audience will easily understand what you are saying.
- Use the silence. Got stuck somewhere? No problem. Use this time to drink from a glass of water and casually glance at your notes. Don’t feel the need to add any fillers, like “um….” People like a good pause—it gives them time to digest your words. If you’re still struggling, then ask your audience a question. (“What do you think?” “Any questions so far?” “Did anyone else see that demon over there?”) By the time someone else finishes speaking, your brain will be back on track.
I’ve had people tell me, “You made it seem so effortless when you were up there. I could never do that!” The secret is that it’s not effortless. You need to do your prep work. Then you’ll be the one casting a spell on your audience.