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Public speaking is one of the biggest challenges to many people. Some people are always shy when it comes to speaking in public. They develop overwhelming fear that affects their ability to speak out effectively. I had this problem in the past. I was very comfortable when it came to group discussions of five or six people. I presented my points clearly and concisely. In such discussions, I argued my points articulately, and I would convince the team members. However, when it came to the presentation of our findings in front of the class, I experienced a complete breakdown in my ability to communicate. Sometimes I hesitated and stuttered, which made it very difficult to express my points to the class. I realized that it was a problem that I had to address to avoid embarrassing situations in future.
Public speaking is an art that is very important in any organization. Baden Eunson is one of the scholars who have looked into the art of communication, and how it affects individual’s life. In his book ‘Communicating in the 21st Century’, this scholar critically analyzes the transformation that has taken place in the field of communication. The book scrutinizes the role of technology in advancing communication in the modern day society. Public speaking is one of the aspects of communication that many people find very challenging. It does not only need the ability of an individual to communicate articulately to the audience, but also the courage to face the crowd. It also requires from an individual to attract the attention of the entire audience in order to make the speech successful. Some people have the courage to stand in from of the crowd, but lack the intellect to get hold of their attention throughout the speech. Such individuals would make the audience bored, especially if they fail to understand the expectations of the public. Public speaking is different from person-to-person communication. In public speaking, the speaker must realize that he or she is addressing an audience that is uniquely different. What one person may find interesting may be very boring to another individual. But a speaker must find a way of engaging all the audience despite this difference.
The main problem that people face when speaking to the public is the inability to understand the expectations of the audience. People always want to be told what they want to hear. When a group of people gathers in a place to listen to a given speaker, there is always some expectations of the speech that will make them feel satisfied with the communication process. Failing to understand this expectation may lead to a complete breakdown in the communication process. This is especially so in cases where the topic to be talked about is controversial. A clear example can be the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine. It is difficult to find someone saying that they are neutral about the possible invasion of Russia into Ukraine. In most of the cases, you will get a group that is against the invasion, while the other group will always be positive towards it. For this reason, it is important to first understand the audience in order to avoid an embarrassing situation.
When speaking to a group that is against the invarsion, it is not advisable to start praising the invasion. There is a possibility that the audience may decide to switch of deliberately because their minds cannot digest what they are hearing. In other extreme cases, the audience may even attack the speaker, leading to very humiliating moments. This does not mean that the audience should always be told what they want to hear even if it is wrong. When the speaker feels that there is a valid reason why it is wrong to tell the audience what they want to hear, then in such cases, it may be necessary to strike a happy medium, and try to explain why it is important not to hold the same view as that which the audience expects. In such delicate situations, the speaker must identify the values that he or she shares with the audience. This should be the foundation of the speech. While explaining why a given process or action is wrong, the speaker should make a constant reference to an ideology, an event, or any other thing that the audience values.
In cases where the speaker is shy, the best way of addressing this is through constant practice. Extreme cases of shyness can be dealt through counseling. The affected individual may need to be taken through a counseling process before he or she starts practicing. At first, he or she may start by talking to empty seats in a hall. After some time, he or she will need to address four or five people. The size of the audience can be increased as one gains confidence to speak in public. This is how I have been able to fight the fear I had when communicating to the public.
Some scholars have come up with communication theories to explain why some people may find it challenging to speak freely and effectively to a group of people. One of the most common theories of communication that can be applied in this case is the Cognitive Dissonance Theory. This theory holds that the mind will always try to avoid conflicts and tensions through various mechanisms in order to attain harmony. Sometimes the desire of the mind to maintain harmony may be irrational, making it difficult for an individual to speak freely to people. This is a common problem among the perfectionists who always try to please everyone. Their ability to speak to the public is always affected by the fear that their statements may hurt others, or that they may be judged harshly. This theory explains what was affecting my ability to speak to the public. There was always a constant fear that people may judge my speech harshly.
Public speaking is an important aspect of communication that one needs to master. Effective public speaking is a process that one learns through constant practice. However, one needs to understand that to be able to address the public, he or she must understand their expectations. The speech must address their expectations as much as possible. I was able to address the fear of public speaking through the constant practice. I realized that when speaking to the public, it was important not to be too self-conscious to be able to address the public freely. I have also learnt that it is important to understand the choice of words based on the age, gender, social class, race, and other demographical factors of the audience.