The "ABCD"s of Public Speaking

All the greatest leaders of the world, such as Martin Luther King, have mastered the art of public speaking. On March 7th, 2007, Professor Dale Deletis gave a speech on how to overcome the fear of public speaking. He approached the issue using an interesting physiological solution. Deletis immediately affirmed that all the symptoms of the “fight or flight syndrome” are perfectly normal human circumstances: “This is not neurotic behavior; this is a human reaction to threat. You do not need to go to therapy for this.”

Following are five perfectly normal, perfectly human, symptoms of the “fight or flight syndrome”:
1. Heart begins to race quickly
2. Voice tightens up; voice pitch gets higher
3. Hands grow clammy, cold, or fidgety
4. Butterflies develop in the stomach
5. Bodily functions speed up: respiration/urinary functions

What is not good, Deletis warned, is allowing these feelings to control us. We must channel and control this energy so that it does not grow wild and undirected. He discussed four strategies using a physiological approach for conquering these moments of fear during public speaking. I have summarized the key points of Deletis’ strategy using the following mnemonic:

A = Articulate
Prepare and practice OUT LOUD. Become a verbal and articulate speaker. For example, Deletis recommends anticipating questions that might be asked in a HBS Case Study classroom or job interview, and then practicing by articulating the answers to these questions OUT LOUD. The benefit of this practice is that eventually you will naturally become an articulate person Public speaking is a learned skill. Just as the pursuit and mastery of a musical instrument entails hours of daily devoted practice, mastering the art of public speaking simply takes dedicated daily practice….OUT LOUD.

B = Bananas
Eat bananas. The banana, of the entire fruit kingdom, has one of the highest concentrations of Potassium. Potassium has the magical effect of relaxing the muscles in our body. When adrenaline flows into the body during stressful situations, Potassium comes to the rescue by relaxing muscular cramps. Apparently, according to Deletis, banana-eating is also the secret weapon for conquering stress of many professional musicians. Concert musicians undergo the highest stress of all performing artists because perfection is paramount. Mistakes are virtually unthinkable because musicians must blend in perfectly with one another.

What does one eat if he/she dislikes bananas or wishes to slim down? Sadly, although bananas are nutrient-dense, their somewhat higher glycemic index (GI) contributes to an expanding waistline if eaten in excess. (The GI is a measure of a food’s impact on blood-sugar levels in the body.) I personally love bananas. (In fact, I have joined the Facebook Group, “Banana lovers of the world unite”.) However, due to my slimming goals, I must limit my banana consumption, and have discovered other equally-excellent forms of Potassium. I always recommend a varied diet.

C = Caffeine-Free.
Avoid coffee completely. Alternatively, drink water. Caffeine consumption leads to detrimental side effects for the public speaker: it makes the heart beat faster tag heuer replica for sale ; it places the body in a chemically-induced hyper-state; and if the speaker is already stressed, then it adds additional stress onto an already distressed body.

D = Deep Breathing
There exists a connection between deep breathing and relaxation. When our bodies are in a state of distress, we are more conducive to holding our breath. Medical evidence suggests that the people with the lowest blood pressure are the Buddhist monks. They are in a constant state of meditation and relaxation. Deep yoga breathing slows the heart rate and releases stress.

Contrary to deep breathing is chest breathing, breathing oftentimes described as shallow breathing. It is easy to diagnose chest breathing: If the chest rises during the inhalation phase, as though you are gasping for air, then you are breathing in a shallow manner.

According to Deletis, in the more optimal form of breathing-deep breathing-the chest does not move. The upper half of the torso looks more relaxed. Imagine that a balloon is sitting in the lower abdominal cavity. During the inhalation phase, the balloon expands, causing the lower abdominal cavity pushes outwards; during the exhalation phase, the balloon deflates, causing the lower abdominal cavity to pull inwards.

Equally importantly, Deletis addressed the inner world of public speaking-the psychological nature of the art. According to Deletis, our life cycle can be described in the context of our self-consciousness.

Deletis affirmed that, in losing the fear of public speaking, we must lose our self-consciousness. We must remember that not everyone will judge us poorly breitling superocean replica. I oftentimes find parallels between the art of public and the art of acting. The best actors and actresses have learned to peel away every layer of self-consciousness. Actress Lucy Liu once advised, “In general as an actress, you have to be willing to humiliate yourself completely. Do not hold back.”

Additionally, Deletis reminded us that, in the catalogue of fears, this fear is less than other fears. We must attempt to gain perspective. Deletis recounted a memorable interaction he once had with a HBS Alumnus, who served in the military prior to his academic studies at HBS:

HBS Alumnus: I have goals and strategies.
Deletis: Do you ever have dreams?
HBS Alumnus: Oh, no! I only have goals and strategies!
Deletis: Do you ever get nervous?
HBS Alumnus: Nervous!?! Have you ever had a gun pointed towards your head?

This man clearly understands what life and death circumstances are. The world’s great leaders are stellar rhetoricians who have all conquered the fear of public speaking. Always remember that this fear of public speaking is universal, and that it is only one of many fears in this world. Always remember that the fear of public speaking is not life-threatening. Most importantly, always remember that other people are not as judgmental as you are on yourself.

Three exciting events remain in the semester’s Outstanding Speaker Series, hosted by the HBS Public Speaking Club:

1. The world-famous motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, will be speaking in Burden Auditorium on March 29, 2007 at 4:15pm. Robbins has consulted international leaders and celebrities such as Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Francois Mitterrand, Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, members of two royal families, members of the U.S. Congress, three Presidents of the United States, Andre Agassi, Greg Norman, Quincy Jones and Anthony Hopkins. As a pop-culture figure, he was featured as himself in a Hollywood feature film, “Shallow Hall”. Robbins serves as the Vice Chairman of Health, Education, and Science for the United Nations Research Center. He is the author a several national bestsellers such as “Unlimited Power” and “Awaken the Giant Within”.

2. Next, on April 4, 2007, Dan Christman will give a speech on “Business in China”.

3. Finally, the Fourth Annual HBS Speaking Tournament on April 11 at 4:15pm will feature our own home-grown outstanding speakers.

If you have questions, please contact the Public Speaking Club’s Vice President of Operations, Brenda Vongova, at

March 26, 2007
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