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The Friday Five

The Fear Worse Than Death

By The Editors

If you’re like most people, learning that you have to speak to a big group is the closest you ever come to peeing your pants. Yes, there are a few who just seem to thrive on it. But they’re rare. And they aren’t us, right? Since public speaking is a critical element in most lawyers’ business development plans, we decided to give you a little encouragement. Today’s Five is designed to give you some support, resources and … guts.

1. A master class. The American Rhetoric website offers audio files and text of what they describe as “The Top 100 Speeches.” There’s everything from Martin Luther King’s last speech to Anita Hill’s statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, JFK’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech to Elie Weiesel’s “The Perils of Indifference.” Try this: Put your feet up and listen for a while—it will put you in the mood.

2. A good laugh. The ability to laugh at yourself is one of the best traits a speaker can have. Check Public Speaking International’s collection of funny public speaking stories. You’ll see there’s no end to the ways one can look foolish on the dias—and find that even the best speakers make some deadly bloopers.

3. If you’re all stressed out. Read this article on painless public speaking for some great and unusual tips on how to, for example, breathe and speak at the same time, stay calm and overcome anxiety about standing up in the front of the room.

4. Practice makes perfect. More than 4 million business professionals have mastered their fears and perfected their speaking skills by participating in Toastmasters International. The concept has been so successful that many law firms now host their own groups on-site. The Toastmasters website has more information and lots of free resources. Bonus: Fellow Toastmasters make the best networking contacts!

5. Strip down (your visuals, that is). Knowing your slides are in shape can boost your confidence. So, if you suspect your PowerPoint slides aren’t cutting it despite applying 12 different fonts and 22 backgrounds … well … good for you! We can tell you that you’re correct, even without seeing them. Simplicity and brevity are the souls of good slides, so strip out all the extra gunk. Watch Alex Osterwalder’s “Design for Business” at Slideshare and you’ll see what we mean. Bonus: You’ll also see how to leverage your speeches by posting the slideshows online afterward!

Categories: Communications Skills, Daily Dispatch, Friday Five, Lawyer Skills
Originally published April 1, 2011
Last updated August 31, 2020
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