Overcome the Fear
”Being nervous is a good thing”, said prof. Michael Cohen during a lecture on the fundamentals of public speaking he gave on Nov. 19.
“I’m going to make a public mistake, which is, I’m going to go way too fast,” said Cohen at the beginning of the lecture. “I’m essentially condensing the core 50 per cent of the public speaking course into an hour.” Indeed, in one hour he managed to cover the basics of using the voice, body language, dress, “dos and don’ts,” and the core points of any speech structure.
Cohen started with the most important element of any speech – the message, the thing one is trying to get across. “Everything else – your voice, your body – these are just tools to deliver the message,” he said. There are many factors influencing the way an audience accepts the message: your moves, clothes, tone, even the audience you are performing to. Knowing these factors essentially helps deliver this message in the best possible way, Cohen said.
One of the tips he gave was showing up early for the presentation. According to him, coming early helps you relax a little, get to know the environment one is performing in, have a chat with some people from the audience – all these things will help to reduce the nervousness one might have.
Nervousness was the next point of the lecture – the fear of public speaking is a universal fear. “This is why most of you are here actually – you are not here because you don’t understand how speeches are structured,” Cohen said. “You’re here because you know every time you do this, you get nervous.” According to him, you cannot entirely overcome the fear of public speaking, because it is a primal fear, it is hardwired into your brain, “I’m standing alone surrounded by people looking at me,” he said. “Now in my hardwired reptile caveman brain this is a very adverse situation to survival.”
The other thing about nervousness is the energy that it gives the orator. If you are not nervous at all, the speech might be a little flat, but the nervousness quickly transforms into energy the moment he or she steps on the stage. So, nervousness is a good thing, and there is nothing to be afraid of, Cohen said.
Cohen continued the lecture by introducing different meditation techniques and explaining the basic points of any speech, which could be found in the handouts distributed before the lecture.