How can Speech Therapy Improve Your Public Speaking Skills and Reduce Stage Fright? by Jana Abed Al Reda.

Shaking, sweating, butterflies in the stomach, a dry mouth, a rapid heartbeat, and a squeaky voice—these are just some of the most common symptoms experienced by most people when giving speeches, simply presenting or speaking in front of an audience.

Glossophobia is a term not known to many but is definitely experienced by a lot of people. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 75% of the population indicates that one of their top fears is public speaking, also known as glossophobia.

Most people just lose hope and assume that they are “bad public speakers” or that they don’t have what it takes. However, that is far from the truth! No one is born a natural public speaker; everything can be learned and improved over time. With the right technique, anyone can speak with confidence because everyone deserves a voice!

As speech therapists, we don’t only help people with oral and written language difficulties and disorders. We are also voice and swallowing therapists, and are well-versed in verbal and non-verbal communication skills. We are here to help you speak your mind with confidence, based on science-based strategies and techniques to help you get over your fear of public speaking.

1. Breathing:

Nervousness can cause the voice to crack, and both pitch and volume can be affected in a variety of ways. It all comes down to proper breathing technique and how to harness the power of your diaphragm (located at the base of the lungs), a main muscle used in breathing. Speech therapists will indicate the problem with how you manage your breathing. Proper breathing techniques will help keep your body relaxed and prevent you from being out of breath during your speech. Proper control of your breath will give you a powerful, loud voice as well as a soft, clear sound.

2. Fluency:

Fluency refers to continuity, smoothness, rate, and effort in speech production. Anxiety and fear of speaking in public plays a vital role in interrupting the flow of speech, and this can sometimes indicate nervousness. Speech and language pathologists can teach you strategies to reduce or even eliminate these disfluencies in your speech for a more coherent and clear voice.

3. Nonverbal communication:

Body language and nonverbal cues can make or break a speech. As mentioned before, speech and language pathologists are masters of communication and nonverbal cueing. Nonverbal skills include eye contact, facial expressions, and the use of gestures. Along with good posture, the proper use of these elements can help you show how confident and dynamic you are when giving your speech. Speech therapists will help you be aware of these nonverbal cues and help you use them as intended to exert an image of confidence and positively change the way your speech is perceived by others.

4. Accent Modification:

We are not all native English speakers, and so naturally, we don’t always have the same accent as we hear in native speakers. Even in other languages some accents are heavier than others, and that can hinder the speech, as people will sometimes focus on the accent and not the message you are trying to convey. Of course, that does not mean that having an accent is a bad thing. It’s just that, as we said, some accents are heavier in terms of articulation of certain sounds in words that may not be very clear to the listeners who are unfamiliar with a particular accent, and that can affect the clarity of the message being conveyed. That’s why speech therapists can help you modify your accent by working on teaching the individual a combination of pronunciation, syntactic, and intonation skills. They can help you speak and produce sounds differently, so you’re more clearly understood.

5. Vocal hygiene:

Obviously, your voice is the most important aspect of your speech, so vocal hygiene is vital. Take care of your voice, and it will take care of you and carry you smoothly during your speech. The role of speech therapists includes stopping inappropriate vocal habits and situations that place unnecessary damage to the voice. As well as proper behaviours that contribute to adequate voice production and overall vocal health. Voice therapy also helps you develop strategies to improve and control your voice.

Speech therapy is the way to go in terms of speech preparation. With the appropriate support from your therapist, you’ll be able to harness your true potential as a public speaker, as they will work one-on-one to help you know where you need to improve and provide you with a proper assessment and intervention plan to set strategies tailored for you. Of course, practice is always essential to elevating that anxiety; the more you practice your techniques, the more confident you’ll be to speak your mind in front of an audience. And remember that your voice matters and can change the world!

References:

6 Easy & Effective Breath Exercises for Singers | School of Rock. (2021, December 17). School of Rock. https://www.schoolofrock.com/resources/vocals/6-easy-effective-breath-exercises-for-singers#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20important,as%20a%20soft%2C%20clear%20sound. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.-a). Accent Modification.

https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/professional-issues/accent-modification/#:~:text=The%20focus%20of%20accent%20modification,ease%2C%20and%20spontaneity%20in%20communication.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.-b). Fluency Disorders. https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/fluency-disorders/#:~:text=Fluency%20refers%20to%20continuity%2C%20smoothness,called%20typical%20disfluencies%20or%20nonfluencies. Black, R. (2019, September 12). Glossophobia (Fear of Public Speaking): Are You Glossophobic? Psycom.net. https://www.psycom.net/glossophobia-fear-of-public-speaking#:~:text=Glossophobia%2C%20or%20a%20fear%20of,full%2Don%20panic%20and%20fear. Ccc-Slp, L. S. M. (2020). 5 Ways Speech Therapy Can Improve Your Public Speaking Skills (and Reduce Stage Fright). Expressable. https://www.expressable.com/learning-center/adults/5-ways-speech-therapy-can-improve-your-public-speaking-skills Farrar, J. (2018). Fear of Public Speaking – Can Speech Therapy Really Help? Leading Speech & Language Provider in Dublin. https://www.spectrumspeech.ie/blog/speech-language-therapy-and-public-speaking Fear of public speaking: How can I overcome it? (2017, May 17). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/specific-phobias/expert-answers/fear-of-public-speaking/faq-20058416 Glossophobia.com – Do you suffer from fear of speaking in public? (n.d.). http://www.glossophobia.com/ Morris, S. Y. (2019, January 30). Glossophobia: What It Is and How to Treat It. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/glossophobia#causes Professional, C. C. M. (n.d.). Voice Therapy. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/22339-voice-therapy Social Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.). Mental Health America. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/social-anxiety-disorder University of Pittsburgh Communications Services Webteam. (n.d.). Speech Anxiety | Department of Communication | University of Pittsburgh. Copyright (C) 2015 – University of Pittsburgh.

https://www.comm.pitt.edu/speech-anxiety#:~:text=Some%20of%20the%20most%20common,it%20work%20to%20your%20advantage.

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