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Scared Speechless? (Grade 8)

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Scared Speechless?
by Keely Bayley

Giving a speech in front of others, whether they be strangers or friends, can be a nightmare come to life. Your hands start to shake and sweat, your heart rate increases as adrenaline pumps through your veins, and every cohesive thought that was in your head disappears. Frankly, you’d give an arm and a leg to be out of that situation if you were given a choice.

Virtually everyone has some degree of fear of public speaking with various reasons for it. Even people who make a career of speaking or do activities involving public speaking are afraid of it. The difference between say, a politician and a student, is that one of them has discovered the secrets to public speaking while the other is still freaking out.

The very first thing that any public speaker needs to be successful is the understanding of the importance of being prepared. Several of your classmates might claim that they can just ‘wing it’ but whether that actually works in situations with higher stakes than an English grade is questionable. Research and planning allow for a speech that is factual and organized, showing a professionality that is admirable and respectable. Furthermore, having a plan for what to say and what order to say it in will allow you to make sure you hit every point and get back on track should you lose your place.

The most important thing to have when giving a speech is confidence. Yes, confidence is tough and the reason why you fear public speaking is probably due to a lack of confidence. Luckily, a good speaker doesn’t necessarily need real confidence; they just need to be able to fake confidence convincingly.

Faking confidence starts with your voice. Speaking slowly will reduce stuttering and increase enunciation for a clear speaking voice. It will also allow your brain enough time to think through what you are going to say next and remember the rest of your speech if you are blanking. Next, make sure that when giving your speech, your voice’s inflection (pitch or tone) is changing throughout your sentence or paragraph. In other words, don’t be monotone and put your audience to sleep.

Changing the inflection of your voice makes what you’re saying sound more interesting and can be extremely helpful for emphasis or eliciting an emotional reaction from the audience. Last in the voice category, is projecting your voice.

Different speaking roles require different levels of volume but, in general, having a louder voice makes you seem more confident and makes sure that everyone can hear your thoughts. Just don’t get so loud that you start yelling. A good sentence to practice all of this on is as follows:

The big black bug bled blue- black blood.

This tongue twister forces you to slow down and enunciate, specifically the b, g, k, and d.

In addition, try adding different inflections (inquisitive, adamant, questioning, etc.) and a confident volume. After mastering a confident voice, you must master a confident physical attitude. When people get nervous, they tend to fidget and exhibit nervous ticks such as wringing their hands or rocking back and forth. While, it can be extremely difficult to control these natural behaviors, doing so shows that you aren’t nervous at all. A good position to get into before giving a speech is as follows: feet slightly apart for a strong base, hands at your sides until they are needed for gestures, back straight, shoulders back, and head held high.

However, be careful that you don’t just stand like a statue for your entire presentation. Walking around the stage in a manner that reflects the movement of your speech is visually appealing. For example, aimlessly walking about is confusing and not much better than standing still. Moving forward and towards the side as you move from one idea to the next on the other hand, visually moves your speech forward and shows more structure.

While it’s likely that you will still be nervous and have sweaty palms as you go to give speeches, using these methods to give a great speech will project confidence. Your presentation of the speech will look professional while you look as cool as a cucumber. Just remember that confidence is the key to every great speaker. You can do it!
1. 
What is the most important thing to understand when giving a speech?
  1. It helps to be prepared.
  2. Everyone is looking at you.
  3. Even politicians get scared.
  4. Speaking slowly reduces stuttering.
2. 
What can you do to make what you're saying more interesting?
  1. smile a lot
  2. stand as still as a statue
  3. change the inflection of your voice
  4. write your speech using tongue twisters
3. 
How can saying a tongue twister help you when preparing for a speech?
  1. It helps you relax and lose your nerves.
  2. It forces you to slow down and enunciate.
  3. It makes it easier to come up with words that sound good.
  4. It loosens your tongue so your mouth stays dry while you talk.
4. 
It is okay to fake confidence when giving a speech.
  1. True
  2. False
5. 
Why is it helpful to move around while giving a speech?
  1. It helps move your speech and ideas forward.
  2. It keeps people from staring at you for long.
  3. It increases the number of breaths you take.
  4. It reduces stress and anxiety while speaking.
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