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Calling All School Public Speaking Contest Event-Planners

December 1st, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Do you recall your very first school speech or ‘oral composition’? Mine was at Norwood District High School when I was 13 and in grade nine.   I wasn’t nervous — I was scared stiff! Since then, I’ve learned I was not alone. Standing up to speak in front of others tops the average person’s list of ‘Life’s Most Dreaded Activities.’ Yet, statistics also reveal that oral communication skill is one of the most reliable indicators of success in work and joy in life.

Now, I give speeches in schools — voluntarily! My topic is ‘Ways to Reduce Fear in Public Speaking.’ How did I go from a frozen failure to a confident coach? My answer to that question is very encouraging for students struggling with how to put a speech together and make their butterflies ‘fly in formation.’

Most of our fears seem to boil down to three questions: Will they like me? Will they be interested in what I have to say? Will they be able to hear me over the sound of my hammering heart and knocking knees? I share a simple system which can help any confused or fearful individual cut the clutter and become a more confident communicator. And it will produce a ‘yes’ answer to those three questions.

Last winter a teacher at St. Paul’s Elementary School in Norwood, Ontario, contacted my speaking club for an experienced speaker to address the students a few weeks prior to their public speaking contest. When my club recommended me (I’m an Advanced Communicator Silver Toastmaster), I had the privilege of meeting the event-planner. Following is part of what she wrote to me in an e-mail following my presentation:

I heard many positive comments from teachers of each grade and you certainly inspired many young speakers. Many students, directly after your speech, were very keen to work on and improve their speeches. I personally enjoyed your speech very much and really appreciated the connections you drew to the community and our school. Thank you again and again.

I was not always an award-winning speaker. Although standing and delivering inspirational speeches to groups of adults was my childhood dream, it was also my worst nightmare! But my nightmare became my dream-come-true when I learned three secrets. These secrets relate to how to ‘see’ your audience members,  how to pick a topic, and how to write and deliver your speech in three simple parts.

Ever fall flat on your face from fear! If not, count your blessings. But you won’t have to look far to find such individuals. Hiding in school classrooms from one corner of this country to another are students just like me — once tongue-tied and terrified, afraid of failing and of looking stupid in front of others. Individuals who wish to do their best, but simply need a little help from someone who’s been there, and wants to be there for someone else, and is willing to share some special know-how. If it worked for me, it can work for anyone.

That’s why I’m calling all teachers in charge of public speaking contests. If you would like me to help, feel free to contact me.

A retired teacher, Murray is an author and speaker whose topics in front of school (and other) audiences include ‘Down with Depression’ and ‘Ways to Reduce Fear in Public Speaking.’

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