Speaking in the presence of people. Also known as forensics (includes speech and debate).

Scientific Public Speaking
I have just given a talk in front of some plasma physicists. I can make the following observations.

With that speech over with, I feel I have gained XP.
Jerry Seinfeld has a great line in one of his comic routines where he quotes the poll result that more Americans are afraid of public speaking that death, meaning that if you're at a funeral, you'd rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.

Some key notes to keep in mind if you're public speaking:

  1. In a group setting, most people cannot pay attention to every word you say. In general, audience members might listen to 10 minutes of a one hour talk, no matter how fascinating the subject. Therefore, try to punctuate the presentation with certain catch phrases or key points every five minutes in order to draw their attention back to you.
  2. Do not stand completely still during a presentation. Podiums are not a shield but a support. Don't wander around too much (like a ferret on speed), but do not stay rooted in place.
  3. Gesticulate in order to accentuate your sentences. All politicians know that a certain amount of movement of the hands can be beneficial.
  4. If you're using a computer or slides, don't overdo it with the graphics and eye-candy. Just because PowerPoint let's you star wipe and play music at each slide transition doesn't mean you should. Too much graphical noise will only detract from the message.
  5. Choose your colours appropriately. In general, it's easiest to read short amounts of text of a light colour on a dark background. Pale yellow text on a dark blue is a popular choice.
  6. When speaking to a crowd, make it look as though you're looking straight at them by scanning the back wall of the room. The audience members will think you're looking at them, but you won't have to deal with the stress of seeing what might look like a disapproving face.
  7. Don't speak too quickly. Vary your tone. Take deep breaths.
  8. Most of all, remember that 95% of the audience wants you to succeed; it's human nature not to want someone (even someone you don't know) fall flat. They are all supporting you.
Most people flat out suck at giving speeches. It's the kind of thing that is not stressed at all in public schools here in the States, and when kids are forced to speak in public, they often times have such horrible experiences that they never want to try to improve. Having recently received my first packet from Toastmasters in the mail, I've been reading up on how to speak more effectively, and I can't believe how simple some of these ideas are. Why on earth don't we teach kids these kinds of things?

I have a feeling that it's because the government wants to minimize the number of people who can communicate ideas effectively to large numbers of people. As it is, the majority of skilled speakers end up being smiley glad-hands, as well as lawyers and other members of the American social elite. Rich capitalists only want people whose families have benefited from the capitalist system to possess these kinds of powers.

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