Tips on speaking with confidence

February 3, 2009 4:22:59 PM PST
Overcome your fear of public speaking by finding your voice. It could help you ace that job interview, make an impression at the PTA meeting or be a great storyteller. Founder of Voicetrax in Sausalito Samantha Paris has advice on how to speak with confidence.

Public speaking tips: We've all heard the oft-repeated "statistic" that the fear of public speaking ranks outranks death in many public surveys. While Samantha thinks that this claim may be a bit exaggerated (Jerry Seinfeld put it into perspective best when he said, "This means people would rather be in the coffin than be required to deliver the eulogy"), she has a few suggestions to ease peoples' stress whenever they are called upon to speak publicly?at work, in school, at church, at a community event or wherever?

Have a roadmap; know where you're going. You need to figure out what the point of the script is first because that will shade and shape the way you tell the rest of the story. Another way to think about it?"Is there a moral to the story or a lesson to be learned? Do I want the audience to draw some conclusion?"

If you don't buy into what you're saying, your audience won't either. Professional speakers and voice actors understand that their primary responsibility is to engage their audience?to get them to buy in?to suspend their disbelief. And whether you are representing yourself as the world's leading authority on integrated software solutions or a super-powered alien, the only way that you can get your audience to believe this, is if you believe it yourself.

You need to find where the "conflict" is in the script to create dramatic tension and interest, and hold your audience's attention. Since the basis for all drama is conflict, if you want to engage your audience, you need come up with a dramatic narrative that gives you a compelling reason for saying the words in the script?a way to frame it that gives your words more interest and importance, otherwise known as "raising the stakes. If you find something that you are passionate about communicating in the script, your message becomes more urgent, compelling and engaging.

A few more things to consider:

Who is your target audience and where will you be speaking? Clearly these considerations will affect the general tone, style and volume of your talk.

By the way, don't assume that you'll be preaching to the choir; think about talking to someone who either has no opinion or is mildly skeptical.

What is the "takeaway"? In other words, if listeners remember only one thing about your talk, what should it be?

Is there a "call to action?" Do you want the audience to follow through in some way?

About voiceover work:
Professional voice actors audition all the time because that is the how they find new work. How often do voice actors typically audition?

  • In the Bay Area most professional voice actors audition several times each week.
  • In LA, it is not uncommon for working voice actors to audition 3-6 times a day.

    Therefore, it's easy to see why developing strong auditioning skills is critical to any voice actor's success and why Voicetrax places so much emphasis on mastering those skills in its training program.

    Here is a short list of tips that will benefit anyone who is looking to stand out among the competition:

  • Don't expect to get by on raw talent alone. Those who succeed in the long run are those who are willing to put in the hard work and hours necessary to master their craft, and once mastered, practice regularly to keep their skills sharp. It's no coincidence that the most talented people we know are also the hardest working.

  • Believe that you are enough; in other words don't be afraid to be your authentic self. Don't try to be something or someone that you are not; imitations always pale in comparison to the originals. If you come across on a job interview as earnest, enthusiastic and trainable, employers may be willing to take you on even if you are perceived to be a bit green or a "diamond in the rough," but if you come across as contrived and rehearsed, not so much. This leads us to our next tip?.

  • If you want to be engaging, you must be engaged. If you don't care, neither will your interviewer. Find something about the job that genuinely interests you and that you truly connect with to discuss during your job interview. If you honestly can't find anything about the work that's all that interesting to you, or that you can get genuinely excited about, it's probably not a good fit and you should look elsewhere.

  • Listen; be in the moment and pay close attention. Sometimes we get so caught up in worrying about what we're going to say, and how we're going to come across in a job interview that we forget all about listening. Don't. While you should definitely prepare well and do your homework, avoid memorizing "canned" answers. During your interview you should be primarily focused on listening and being fully present and engaged.

  • Be respectful, professional and courteous to everyone you come into contact with---the receptionist, the office staff, even the parking garage attendant, in addition to the interviewers. Don't ever assume, because you never know who talks to whom. You want to leave a general impression that you are someone who is easy and pleasant to work with. By the way, if you think that people will put up with your bad behavior because you are that good, get over yourself? No one will put up with an energy-zapping, demanding drama queen for very long.

  • Care enough not to care. Passion and enthusiasm are appealing traits; neediness and desperation are not and an employer can smell them a mile away. Taking your work seriously is a good thing; taking yourself seriously is not. Once you've completed the interview, don't replay it over and over in your mind. If you made mistakes, note them, learn from them, and move on! And while it's okay to send a follow-up thank you note to your interviewer, it's not okay to contact them daily. That's called "stalking.

  • Market yourself aggressively; be willing to put yourself out there. Make sure that your resume, and whichever marketing materials you use in your profession, showcase your strengths well, accurately and professionally. Your marketing materials should be first-rate, and you should get expert help in preparing them to ensure that they comply with the current trends and standards for your industry. (I know that everyone is concerned with saving money, but this is an investment in your future and you don't want to skimp on presenting yourself in the best possible light.)

    About Voicetrax San Francisco
    Voicetrax, founded in 1988, is the only training center of its kind - DEVOTED ENTIRELY to the study of voiceover - in the country. Since its inception, the Voicetrax curriculum has evolved into the most advanced and comprehensive course of instruction available in the field. Owner and voice actor Samantha Paris remains dedicated to developing and mentoring the many individuals who come through Voicetrax's doors. Whether her students want to become full time voice actors, or are there to improve their presentations at work, learn ways to successfully interview for a new job, become more effective in the court room, or how to add a little pizzazz when reading their child's favorite bedtime story, Voicetrax has something to offer everyone. From beginning voiceover classes that teach basic acting skills, listening skills and how to handle a microphone, to more advanced classes like animation, video games, audio books, and news promos, Voicetrax has, for over 20 years, helped individuals FIND THEIR TRUE VOICE. And as technology has evolved, Voicetrax keeps growing and adopting all the new technologies - podcasting, satellite radio and mobile TV.

    Finding your Voice: Introduction to the world of voiceover
    1207 D Bridgeway
    Sausalito, CA 94965
    Saturday, February 7
    9:45AM - 1PM
    $65 dollars
    Space is limited
    Must call and reserve a space. There are no walk-ins!
    Phone: (415) 331-8800

    About Samantha Paris:
    Samantha Paris, founder of Voicetrax has acted in over 1,000 national and regional commercials, and has had major roles in nearly 200 half-hour animated television cartoon shows including the voice of Roxy on "Jem and the Holograms" and Meg Bennett on "Bionic Six." Her most recent commercial credits include The Lottery, Hewlett Packard, and Energy Star. She has won three Clio Awards, a National Gabriel Award for Public Service Announcements, and Bay Area Best Business Practices Award in recognition of her devotion to customer service.