July is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Month and to celebrate, I’ve invited a team of speaking experts to share their best tips and tricks for improving your speaking skills and overcoming speaking anxiety.
How to Connect with Native Ears by Non-native Tongue?
By Guest Expert Kailas Girase
Many native speakers fear to speak in public even though they have a good command of the language. So how much greater is that anxiety when you are giving a presentation in a language other than your native tongue? Let me share Sally’s story.
Sally recently got a job where she will work with a multifunctional, multicultural and multiskilled team. Most of her co-workers are native English speakers, but she is not. However, she realized that public speaking skills were important if she wanted to grow in her career. But, like 74% of people suffer from speech anxiety, Sally suffered from speaking anxiety.
Sally is ambitious. She wasn’t going to let a fear of speaking stop her from reaching her goals. She decided to actively work on her speaking skills.
She sought recommendations from her friends and colleagues for a public speaking coach. She also did some additional research before deciding which one she would set up an initial appointment with. Then she prepared a list of questions for the coach.
Here is how the conversation went:
Sally: My job would benefit from presentation skills, but I am so anxious about speaking in public, especially with my accent.
Coach: Don’t worry Sally. Almost everybody is anxious about public speaking. Here’s a mindset shift: What if you considered learning to speak in front of groups as a challenge? Often, when we were young, we eagerly accepted challenges from our friends. However, after becoming an adult, many of us stopped taking challenges or trying new things. But stretching yourself to do things you haven’t done before is the best way to learn any skill. Do you think you can take on this challenge?
Sally: Sure, I’m willing to accept your challenge. Next question: Will my anxiety show that I have a lack of confidence?
Coach: Many people think that because they think only from their own perspective. However, it is very likely that what your audience will see is that you are anxious because you care about them, you value their time. Your audience appreciates that.
You want to deliver your speech to the best of your ability. They understand that you may be going beyond your comfort zone to speak.
Sally: OK. Will people will listen to me if I’m not a good speaker?
Coach: That same question really sabotaged me at the beginning of my speaking career. I thought, “I am a non-native English speaker. English is my fourth language. My grammar is not good. I have an accent.”
Sally: Actually, I have had many similar thoughts.
Coach: Think about this: Did you know that many people would rather die than speak before an audience? It is the number one phobia in the world! So, the moment you step onto a stage, it puts you on a different level altogether.
Sally: I am happy to know that. So, what should I start speaking about?
Coach: I think giving a toast is a very good start. This is a positive speech that you give about someone else. You put yourself aside and totally focus on the person you are toasting. Be clear. Be honest. Appreciate the things that you like about that person.
Sally: That’s a great idea! That can also build a good relationship with that person, as well as improve my confidence. What are the other things I can speak about?
Coach: Tell personal stories. That lends you authenticity. And your stories need not be glamorous. They can be anything like fun. They can be about special experiences you’ve had. They can be about your hobbies.
Once you’re comfortable, you can develop speeches with specific purposes: To entertain, to persuade, to inspire, or to showcase your expertise.
Sally: Where are some places where I can practice my speeches?
Coach: There are many places where you can hone your public speaking skills, such as Toastmasters clubs, Rotary clubs, local associations, and churches.
Sally: Also, I am a little worried about whether people will feel offended if during a conversation I make some mistakes in choosing to right words?
Coach: Sally, here honesty plays an important role. Your honest efforts give you innocence. Your innocence gives you forgiveness for your mistakes. And, your mistakes give you an opportunity to learn. Don’t worry, people never feel offended. People usually take different accents, different languages as the beauty of diversity.
Sally: I am happy to get that perspective. Also, usually when I speak in front of a group, I get nervous. Sometimes I get goosebumps, I forget my lines or distracted while maintaining eye contact.
Coach: These are obvious things which we get when we are nervous. Keep note of those feelings and speak more frequently in front of groups. You will soon realize that those things are going away.
For eye contact, I have a suggestion. Consider speaking from the stage as a conversation with one person at a time. Say your complete sentence by keeping eye contact with one person. Then for the next sentence choose another person. That way you connect with the audience and your nervousness will also be in control.
Sally: I am thankful for your input and advice.
Coach: I hope you will use your speaking anxiety as energy to propel you forward, rather than fear to hold you back.
The above Sally’s and Coach’s conversation will encourage many of the speakers who are traveling outside their countries. Coach’s advice of being persistent and confident in the efforts for improving public speaking will help them to connect more with the world and enhance the beauty of diversity.
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About Kailas Girase
Kailas is a creative motivational speaker. He is proficient in three different languages. Being a software engineer for the last 12 years, he talks and delivers workshops about tools and techniques available for individual and team productivity. Kailas is a member of NSA-IL where he awarded with the “Rising Speaker Star” award. Currently, He is serving as a Division Director for Toastmasters District 103. Kailas has the vision of life to promote Dignity, Zeal, and Love in the world. His 10 motivational quotes are published in a community calendar which is distributed in 100 plus villages of his hometown in India.