AbstractMany people remember the feelings they experience just before the presentation: the heart is beating as if you have just run one hundred miles, and the hands are shaking. Hysterical butterflies in the stomach, the feeling of something bad ahead, the feeling of being hot and sweating ? all these are the symptoms of the so-called stage fright, or speech anxiety, or the fear of public speaking. Regardless of how you choose to call it, it always appears in the most important moments of life, when people either have to advertise their projects to a dozen of prospective investors or when people are presenting their promotion projects. It should be noted, that a little speech anxiety is always good, as it gives some more energy for an effective presentation. Simultaneously, overcoming excessive anxiety and fear is necessary to make sure that the presentation achieves the desired outcomes. In this context, several simple practical techniques, as well as using Bible as the source of practical knowledge can substantially increase individuals? chances to deliver information and presentation material in due form.
Speech Anxiety Paper
IntroductionMany people remember the feelings they experience just before the presentation: the heart is beating as if you have just run one hundred miles, and the hands are shaking. Hysterical butterflies in the stomach, the feeling of something bad ahead, the feeling of being hot and sweating ? all these are the symptoms of the so-called stage fright, or speech anxiety, or the fear of public speaking. Regardless of how you choose to call it, it always appears in the most important moments of life, when people either have to advertise their projects to a dozen of prospective investors or when people are presenting their promotion projects. It should be noted, that a little speech anxiety is always good, as it gives some more energy for an effective presentation. Simultaneously, overcoming excessive anxiety and fear is necessary to make sure that the presentation achieves the desired outcomes. In this context, several simple practical techniques, as well as using Bible as the source of practical knowledge can substantially increase individuals? chances to deliver information and presentation material in due form. For years and decades have researchers and business professionals been trying to delineate the major factors of speech anxiety in business people, as well as possible ways of overcoming these fears. In the current state of research, only scarce information available with regard to what speech anxiety and stage fear are, and how they can be easily prevented. Generally, speech anxiety, stage fright, and the fear of public speaking form a group of behavioral anxiety disorders, with behavioral speech anxiety defined as ?the degree of assumed speaker anxiety perceived by observers on the basis of manifest speaker behavior? (Finn, Sawyer & Behnke, 2003). It is a widely accepted norm that the symptoms and signs of speech anxiety and stage fright are readily visible to the audience. Given that during a presentation, the audience is involved in evaluating the two different types of judgments and stimuli (paralanguage ? pauses, the pitch, the volume of voice, etc. and physical actions), it is obvious that the audience not only notices how anxious and frightened the speaker is, but how this anxiety or fear impacts the overall quality of the presentation. In most cases, this impact is more negative than positive, and understanding and anticipating a possible failure by speakers only aggravates these symptoms. Interestingly, but researchers were able to discover and investigate the moments during the speech, at which speech anxiety and stage fright reach their peaks. Anxiety is the highest minutes before the presentation and during the first minutes of speaking; after these, the level of anxiety gradually and rapidly declines (Finn, Sawyer & Behnke, 2003). But where speech and anxiety are characterized by a relatively limited list of symptoms and signs, speakers themselves do not always realize that they are going through the growing fear of the audience, the stage, and the fact of being the speak. That is why it is more than important to understand the possible manifestations of such speech anxieties. Moreover, it is more than important to know, how anxious speakers behave in front of the audience, and in what way their behaviors may negatively impact the process of delivering information. Objectively, and for any kind of speech anxiety and stage fright, speakers are less likely to maintain close eye contact with the audience. They are less movable, less expressive, and less communicative. In many aspects, their speech resembles automatic delivery of the information learnt by heart. Speakers who are frightened or anxious will not nod too often and will show more disfluencies in speech, verbal errors; trembling voices; and lower levels of facial pleasantness (Finn, Sawyer & Behnke, 2003). That is why anxious speakers do not look as attractive as those, who do not experience any fears on the stage. The higher the level of anxiety is, the more likely the speakers are to become rigid, less expressive, and more immediate; to show face covering and body blocking (Finn, Sawyer & Behnke, 2003). Speech anxiety and the fear of public speaking usually display themselves through the four most common patterns: rigidity, disfluency, inhibition, and agitation. Rigidity implies the tension anxious speakers experience in terms of their facial muscles; inhibition leads to unnatural facial expressions; disfluency results in the lack of effective wording and word structures, and anxious speakers often find themselves looking for necessary words; agitation manifests itself through the lack of eye contact, swaying, and even feet shuffling (Finn, Sawyer & Behnke, 2003). All this looks too complicated to understand, yet these are the common symptoms of being anxious before the speech. Many of us have gone through similar difficulties; some of us were able to overcome these fears for the sake of more important goals, but what if the fear of the stage and public speaking persists? In this situation, professional literature provides a whole range of recommendations and examples. The major problem which anxious speakers experience is that the audience will observe and will notice their anxiety. Many speakers think ?they will consider me stupid?, thus making the whole situation even more difficult. The truth is (and this information can be used to relieve the tensions between speakers and the audience) only 12% of what is happening on the stage on at the podium can be noticed by the audience (Beaver, 1998). Trying to imagine that speech anxiety is similar to that a couple experience before the day of their marriage, it is also easy to imagine that simply being nice toward audience will significantly improve the general speaking situation. Beaver (1998) says: ?just tell yourself, ?Okay, I have to move ? even slightly ? a way from the lectern.? Imagine yourself talking to a friend over coffee?. In this situation, and if fantasizing succeeds, the whole presentation will come out as a natural conversation with amiable audience, who is increasingly open to the messages the speaker is trying to deliver. As the audience is getting more interested and fascinated, the speaker will also find more strength to move across the podium, to turn his face to the audience, to use more expression and emotion in his face, and to try to reach the eyes and ears of each member of the audience. Certainly, the whole speech can be written down. Many anxious speakers find it more relaxing and relieving to have their speech at the paper, so that they can check whether they are taking the right path each time they feel they cannot find correct words or expressions. In this case, however, it is essential that speakers can balance their reading with the need to maintain close contact with the audience. Writing down the speech is good, but any speech delivery ?should be conversational and the style interactive so that you can keep attendees engaged? (Messmer, 2003). Limiting the written part of the speech to several critical concepts can positively impact the quality of presentation led by an anxious speaker. Beyond these, it is critical that the speaker is well-prepared to the presentation. To be prepared for an anxious speaker means to reduce the scope of anxieties and to increase the level of confidence, when meeting the audience (Baskerville, 1994). Here, again, an anxious speaker should not pay too much attention to his expectations regarding the audience, simply because ?contrary to popular belief, people don?t expect you to fail. [?] They expect you to know what you?re talking about and to succeed. So be prepared ? foremost? (Baskerville, 1994). Many professional managers and experienced speakers find such preparation a critical factor of speaking success. Practicing and participating in public speeches is also extremely important for an anxious speaker to train speaking and emotional skills and abilities. Preparedness usually predetermines up to one half of any presentation?s success, meaning that anxious speakers should actively rehearse their speeches before the presentation, paying minor attention to their misbalanced and mostly, false expectations. For professional speakers, preparation, positive attitudes, and practice are the three pillars on which speech successes usually rest. Speakers should bear in mind, that to be a successful speaker does not mean to have a talent. In no way do public speaking skills are God-given. Of course, Bible can provide some emotional satisfaction and confidence before the presentation. For example, in Matthew 28 we read: ?go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature?. Here, God encourages people to deliver and spread their knowledge to masses, and it is under the positive religious reassurance that anxious speakers can also gain some more confidence and encouragement and thus, lead the presentation in a respectful and non-anxious way. When going to the world with the aim to create and spread knowledge, or in other words, when getting prepared to a public speech, those experiencing fears and anxiety may also create a list of questions they may need to answer to clarify the most problematic speech spots. There are no people that are naturally better speaking than others, and knowing exactly the aim, the anticipated outcomes, the message, and the audience will work to create a favorable and more comfortable speaking atmosphere ? comfortable enough for the speaker to forget his fears. Kim (1997) writes that little anxiety is useful for the quality of the performance because it results in more energy and can make the whole presentation more dynamic, but anxiety tends to turn into a panic, and in order not to lose control over the presentation or the speech, establishing eye contact with the audience may resolve the majority of speech anxiety issues. That the audience is extremely attentive to everything going on at the podium may show through the fact that people are ready to answer the questions asked by the speaker. Asking questions is an effective instrument of generating constant feedback; it is a matter of interacting with audience and managing it in a way that produces positive speaking impressions and lets the speaker forget his fears (Kim, 1997). The list of possible recommendations is virtually unlimited, but in any case, and regardless of the circumstances, overcoming the discussed fears is absolutely possible. The speaker should simply be prepared to work on the most problematic emotional issues.
ConclusionSpeech anxiety, the fear of public speaking, and the stage fright ? all these usually prevent anxious speakers from creating effective presentations. Sweating, the feeling of being hot, trembling hands, and the lack of verbal fluency make speakers feel stupid. That they also fear to look stupid and anxious at the podium makes the whole situation even more complicated. Although Bible can provide sound emotional support, anxious speakers should remember that public speaking skills are not God-given. Any speaker can successfully develop a range of the necessary presentation skills, as well as overcome the fear of the stage and the public. All the speaker needs is patience, tolerance, preparedness to overcome difficulties and optimistic look into the future.