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Overcoming Stage Fright

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The Opening

This is the second most important part of your talk. First impressions are critical because the audience is sizing you up; people are deciding whether they like you or not, whether they can learn from you, whether they are going to be bored or excited. Have the first few words and the first few ideas firmly in your mind. You may want to introduce yourself to the audience, even if the previous speaker has already done so. Some speakers open by complimenting the audience, making some startling or provocative statement, telling a joke, or quoting a prominent person.

The Closing

The closing is the most important part of your talk— the last impression the audience will have of you and the most lasting impression. We can be forgiven for weakness or lapses in the body of the presentation, but never for the opening or the closing.

If the talk has been of a rather light nature, you may want to end with a very good joke or a humorous spin on the material you've just presented. More often, the closing takes the form of a call to action. Don't be afraid to employ some dramatic or emotional language here. You may want to quote a portion of a great speech or use some lines of stirring poetry. Some experienced speakers have a whole arsenal of fiery or sentimental quotes they can use to close a speech.

Live and Learn

The average attention span of an audience is eight seconds. People forget 25 percent of what they hear within 24 hours, 50 percent within 48 hours, and 80 percent within four days. Varying your visual, vocal, and verbal delivery will help you hold an audience's attention.

Introducing a Speaker

Introducing a speaker is usually an easy job. Your basic objective is to get the speaker to the podium without a lot of fuss or delay. Leave yourself out of it as much as possible. Don't launch into a long story about what good friends you are with the person you're introducing.

Get hold of a biography and pare it down. Hit the highlights and emphasize what is of particular interest to this group. Make the tone warm and welcoming. If the event is a family gathering, a retirement party, or something similar, you can be a little more sentimental than at a seminar, lecture, or business function. But, still, brevity is the best policy.



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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