West Windsor, N.J. – It may be hard for us to believe, but the gaffs we make during a public presentation are not necessarily obvious to our audience.
That was just one of the pearls of wisdom that gifted public speaker, Associate Professor of Communication Kathi Paluscio, shared with her MCCC audience on Sept. 25 as part of the college’s Distinguished Lecture Series. Her talk was entitled "The Secrets to Reducing Nervousness in Public Speaking."
Likening public speaking to wrestling an alligator, she noted, “It can be wild and unpredictable. You need tools or you could be eaten.”
Paluscio first focused on the reasons people get nervous. “They recognize there are consequences. I am nervous today. I am speaking in front of my colleagues and administrators, and I am out of my normal setting. But you must be reasonable about the importance of the consequences. A speech is a small pencil dot in your life,” she pointed out.
Paluscio advised not getting bogged down along the way. "Don’t focus on one bad moment. It’s actually selfish to focus on yourself during a presentation. Your job is communicating your message.”
Using a large, furry stuffed spider, she encouraged her audience to stay positive and not give in to fear or negative thinking. “Don’t talk to ‘the bug,’” she said. “When you are speaking, you have no time for that. You are juggling a lot – your body language, eye contact with your audience and, of course, your content.”
And, if you have had past public speaking experiences that have gone badly, Paluscio stressed the importance of making new, good memories. “Be brave enough to do it again. Develop a thick skin,” she said.
Paluscio suggested turning the symptoms of nervousness -- the shaky voice, inability to stand still, and use of “ums” -- into energy directed towards the audience. “Speak loudly, clearly and slowly, and the 'ums' will disappear," she said.
Paluscio stressed that mistakes will happen, but that the speaker should focus on recovery. “Make the next moments powerful and engaging.”
Checking the time, Paluscio left her audience with a final piece of advice. “Commit to a time limit. If you go over your time, you lose your power. Your audience deserves a well-prepared package. Don’t hold people hostage. Timing it right means you care about your audience.”