BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — People are afraid of many different things. Some hate spiders and proceed to freak out until the creepy eight-leggers meet their doom. Others are completely paralyzed by a fear of heights. Still others have the opposite reaction to yellow jackets, and sprint as fast as they can to get away. It’s amazing how much power this terror can have over us.
Of all the fears, which one do you think ranks at the top?
Public speaking. It’s even ranked above death, which is saying something.
Speech-making is a part of life; at some point, whether it’s for a seventh-grade biology presentation or a corporate meeting, we all must step up to the front of the room, wipe the sweat from our palms and calmly address the audience.
Communication skills are essential for everyone, especially so for those in management positions.
Judi Clements, owner of Judi Clements Training and Development, has been helping people perfect their management skills and public speaking abilities for the past 29 years. She points out some tips to help mold you into a better leader and orator:
“The most important thing is to understand yourself You have to understand your own biases and the way you tend to see the world, because you’re seeing it through your own pair of glasses, and that doesn’t mean it’s reality or the truth,” Clements said. “You have to be able to make adjustments for other people. If you’re going to be an effective manager or speaker you first have to realize your own bias and be able to factor that in as you work with others.”
Open Your Ears
“You’ve got to learn how to be a good listener,” Clements said. “Many times when people get into a management position, they fall in love with the sound of their own voice, and that is dangerous because it is through listening that we learn. Too many people are talking all the time. “
Break It Up
“Knowing how to manage conflict is essential,” Clements said. “One of my Judi Gems is: ‘Where there are people, there is conflict.’ It’s only in the movies that things can be hunky dory. You have to learn how to deal with it effectively in a way that’s win-win for both sides. That’s how you build a team.”
Pull Out Pom-Poms
Motivation is also important and there are two kinds. “The first is intrinsic; you have to figure out how do you get yourself motivated when you’re having a bad day,” Clements said. “Then as a manager you have to know how to motivate the various members of your team. It’s not one size fits all.”
Acceptance of change is important. “A lot of us would like it if things would stay status quo because then we don’t have to stretch in a different direction and feel uncomfortable, but that’s not going to be the case especially in the 21st century,” Clements said. “We all better fasten our seat belts and handle that change or else we will be left in the dust.”
If you need some help in the public speaking department . . .
“Don’t dredge up a past bad experience, because everyone that I’ve ever coached has said ‘I remember . . .’ and it’s a horrible story,” Clements said. “Give up the past and focus on the present because that was then and this is now.”
Do Your Homework
“The key to an effective presentation is one word: preparation,” Clements said. “It’s everything, including knowing where you’re going to speak, who you’re going to speak to and what you’re going to speak about. You don’t want any surprises because it’s the surprises that make you nervous.”
Never Read Verbatim
You’re entire speech should not be written out on your notecards. “Your notes should never be in paragraph form; they should be an outline that you can easily glance at, but not read,” Clements said.
“Also, don’t try to memorize; you’ll be nervous and most people can’t do that — that’s for professional actors. Avoid long sentences; use phrases in bullet points.”