Porterfield, Lugo give advice on public speaking anxieties

BY CAROLINE PITKIN ’16
Staff Writer

Are you afraid of public speaking — even just a little? If you are, you are not alone; 75 percent of people have some extent of anxiety about public speaking, which is why the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development hosted Fundamentals of Public Speaking, the first presentation in its new Life Skills series Monday. The presentation featured Dan Porterfield, president of the College, and Daniel Lugo, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid.

Public speaking gives a clear advantage and helps able students stand out in a crowd. However, one does not have to be confident, outgoing, or extremely charismatic to be good at speaking in public. Lugo began the presentation by discussing what constitutes a good public speaker: command of the topic, authenticity and passion, and presentation.

“If you want to do your best to control anxiety, prepare, prepare, prepare,” Lugo said.

He instructed students to take efforts to raise their comfort levels: one should dress in clothing that makes him or her feel good about his or herself; if someone needs to move around while he or she talks, they should move around; if they need to be anchored, they should stand still. They should do whatever makes them feel most comfortable, and don’t forget to breathe.

Besides ensuring personal comfort, there are many other measures one can take prior to a presentation that can help one prepare. Before speaking in public, ask: “What’s the point of the speech? What do I want from the audience? What is the forum?” By answering these questions ahead of time the presentation can be adjusted accordingly.

Lugo ended his portion of the presentation by providing the audience members with some helpful tips on public speaking: there are very few people who are naturally talented public speakers and, for those of us who are not, it is possible to develop the skills necessary to become a good public speaker simply through practice and preparation.

Lugo’s advice was to start participating more in class, to assume leadership roles in clubs and activities, and to practice in front of friends. He advised not to psych yourself out and do try to use a little humor. Everyone appreciates humor and it is okay to be self-deprecating — you are only human and the audience can relate to that.

Porterfield then added his own tip for giving a good speech.

“At roughly the 10-minute point, the majority of the audience will be following, at about the 13-minute point, the majority of the audience will not be listening, and at the 16-minute point, the majority of the audience will be having sexual fantasies,” Porterfield said.

When Lugo had successfully taught how to present a speech, Porterfield taught how to write a speech by leading an exercise during which every member of the audience wrote and presented at least a portion of a short speech.

The first step in writing a good speech is to decide on a single question to address. Next, write down three main points to support the answer to the question. Then, produce a counter-argument out of which to raise the fourth point, the rebuttal.

After presenting a counter-argument, figure out what to tell the audience to take away from the speech. Write that down. Then return to the beginning of the speech and write the lead. The lead is the portion of the speech prior to presenting the argument, when it’s time to grab the audience’s attention and tell them why the speech matters.

After writing the lead, it is time to write a clincher — the final part of the speech in which the points are connected back to the lead, providing a summary of the speech’s importance and, thus, tying everything together.

The next time you have to write and present a speech, try following Porterfield’s suggested structure. Then, make sure to take Lugo’s advice and properly prepare. Anxiety about public speaking is common and, though tricky, not impossible to tackle. But, for now, as both Porterfield and Lugo suggested, just start out small by preparing tonight to raise your hand in class tomorrow.

Questions? Email Caroline at cpitkin@fandm.edu.

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