Speaking of Speaking by Jen Higley

Today membership coordinator Jen Higley give us a recap on the October meeting paired with a boost for December’s meeting.  Welcome, Jen.

With November’s Authors Fair taking the place of our general meeting, our next meeting is December’s read-around potluck.  That means speaking…in front of people.

Thus, October’s meeting was the perfect time for Writers Forum to welcome Shasta College speech instructor Robb Lightfoot.  In “Talking Up What You’ve Written Down,” Lightfoot presented information on speaking to inform or entertain, to persuade or engage, and even offered tips for impromptu conversations.  But the core advice given for nearly every speaking scenario is represented in The Gold Standard: combine preparation with a natural speaking style.  By keeping a speech conversational, you can keep your audience involved and have greater opportunity to fulfill your own speaking goals.  Lightfoot also recommends keeping organization simple and easy to follow, reminding us, “Listeners can’t scroll back.”

Whether your audience be friendly, neutral, hostile, or even uninterested, a tip to engage is to find out what interests them, and adapt your speech to fit your audience. Have a middle school crowd? Member Linda Boyden recommends you include “humor…and something gross!”

Leading by example, Lightfoot asked us our goals for public speaking.  When it became clear that overcoming speech anxiety was a high priority for this crowd, Lightfoot tailored his presentation to include many tips for remaining calm and organized.  He recommends using tools—notes, props, etc.—over memorization, as nerves can cause you to lose your place or repeat sections.  Good preparation before a speech can keep even a nerve-rattled brain more organized, and warming up your voice and practicing out loud will help you get in “the zone” to speak confidently and clearly. Focus on what you would like to accomplish (positives) over what you hope not to do (negatives).  Still a little nervous?  Before you head out, envision the crowd applauding and smiling, and you can even bring your own cheering section for added support.

Many thanks to Robb Lightfoot, who reminded us that everyone gets nervous sometimes, and shared a quote from Edward R. Murrow:

   “The only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained their butterflies to fly in formation.”

So breathe deeply, and let the butterfly show begin!

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