Many people are intimidated by public speaking; it is often said that some people fear public speaking more than death. While there are many different theories regarding how to deal with it, these basic ideas, presented to our audience in 1976, are one way to start.

By Alan Farrant

When you are asked to make a public talk, most likely you find many reasons for not doing it. Suppose the Farmer’s Club wants you to speak at lunch next week — about your own work, or something you do every day and know intimately. Will you say “yes!” right off? Nope!

If you’re like most people — including other farm builders — you’ll say you are busy, or that somebody else would be better. The truth of the matter is: You’re afraid to talk to a group audience! 

And this fear applies in like situations. You will delay in writing an article, a written report, or a direct mail advertising letter. You may have all the facts, but you’ll postpone the chore. Perhaps not because you are afraid, but because you don’t know where to begin. 

This business of communicating ideas — in writing or by voice — is one of the large problems facing many farm builders. But we must communicate, and to many people and places: stockholders, employees, customers, prospects, and sometimes even to our competition. Unfortunately, many find it difficult and even embarrassing sometimes. 

Learn How to Express Yourself

Now, unless you know how to express yourself, much of what you write or say is wasted. Your message just doesn’t get across. It has been often said that in this busy world of today, people listen but do not hear. They read but do not understand. 

Tell ’Em Many Ways

You can do much to overcome this attitude by repeating what you have to say. If you have a new rule for your employees, tell it to them in a meeting and repeat it in a memo. Then put a notice on the bulletin board as insurance that all will see and know it. 

Some people are afraid of words. This is often because they are not sure of the exact meaning of the words they want to use. The answer — if you want to be a good speaker or writer — is to fall in love with words. Read good writings, look up words in the dictionary, solve crossword puzzles to add to your vocabulary. 

Write It Out

Whether you are going to present a written report or a verbal speech, you will probably make a draft first. You should! Take your time … think as you write.

Abraham Lincoln said he needed two days for a 10-minute speech. “But I can make a 2-hour one right now,” said Abe. 

If your speech takes 1 hour to give, take 4 to 6 hours for its preparation. But don’t get carried away with 1-hour speeches. Make them on rare occasions! Have pity on your listeners. “The mind cannot absorb more than the seat can endure,” has often been quoted. So? Twenty to 30 minutes is enough for most any speech. 

Now back to the first draft. Getting started is a real problem, for the inexperienced. Here’s a way that is popular. The “filing card method” is widely used. Get some 3 x 5-inch white cards. On each one write down — without plan — any idea which seems pertinent: figures to be cited, quotes to be used, arguments to be included. 

Then? Then spread all the cards out on the table, and put them in place. The “place” for most of them is easy to find. Don’t worry about fancy writing; just organize your work in a simple way:

1. The beginning. This gives your subject and states what you hope to prove.

2. The middle. This is all the arguments you can muster, the figures and quotations, the jokes to lighten your subject. 

3. The end. Here is where you stop. Sum up what you have said, then stop. Period. 

Should the speech be a difficult one, then more than the cards is needed. You’ll have to write up a rough draft of the entire speech. Leave it alone for a couple of days, while your subconscious stews about it. Then pick up the draft and read it coldly and at a distance, as though for the first time.

Follow the Rules

These rules for writing are the same for speaking. So if you get to the point where you make a speech without first writing it — follow the same instructions. This applies regardless of where you are speaking! Board of directors, garden club, an irate customer or a subdued employee. 

The best way to speak in public is to pretend you are speaking in private. Usually people who have no trouble speaking privately in their office, often freeze up at just the thought of speaking in public. 

Nobody learns all the rules in one session We all must practice. The thing to do is to begin writing, begin speaking, and keep it up until you have mastered the techniques of transmitting ideas with the only weapon we have — words. Good luck to you! RB