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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 31, 2000. All rights

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E-mail: msherwood@princetoninfo.com

Molding a `Natural Speaker’

The great statesman and orator Winston Churchill was

like the average person in one respect — he got nervous in front

of large crowds. "He’s one of these people you’d think was a

natural

speaker, a great orator, but he worked long and hard on his

speeches,"

says Maria Richard, a former radio broadcaster and public

speaking

coach who presents "The Seven Keys to Successful

Presentations,"

at the Learning Studio on Tuesday, June 6, at 7 p.m. Call

609-688-0800.

Cost: $79.

Almost everyone dreads public speaking, says Richard, but there are

several techniques for overcoming stagefright and adding panache to

your delivery. Richard’s Sellersville-based company, Quality of Life

Training (215-258-1193), helps people do just that.

A graduate of the American Academy of Broadcasting in Philadelphia,

Class of 1979, Richard started her career as an announcer at a Top

40 rock station in North Carolina, but found a home in corporate

communications.

"You don’t start making money in radio until you hit the big

time,"

she says, "so I ended up doing corporate sales and training and

I’ve evolved into the programs I present now. There’s a lot of

critiquing

and positive feedback."

Each student is asked to prepare a speech for each class and to

imitate

a public speaker they most admire. "It’s called modeling —

the idea behind it is that if you imitate somebody, those skills

become

your own," says Richard. "Students picture that person in

their mind, then picture that person on stage, finally they picture

themselves on stage giving that speech." Richard also teaches

her students tricks to winning an audience, borrowed largely from

neuro-linguistic programming techniques.

One of her specialities, however, is analyzing the way in which gender

relates to public presentation. Says Richards: "As one public

speaking coach once said, `When a man gets up to speak, people listen.

When a woman gets up to speak, people look, and if they like what

they see, they listen.’ It’s still very true that women are judged

very differently."

Bad habits such as fidgeting or talking at light speed are universal

among men and women, but women tend to have their own eccentricities

— like standing with one knee bent, hip pressed out, rather than

with feet planted on the ground. "A lot of us do this

unconsciously,

and it looks bad," says Richard. "Sometimes when women do

this they look like little girls. There’s something we talk about

called the posture of confidence. When your feet are on the ground

you look more confident."

Another universal bad habit, says Richard, is taking advice on public

speaking from amateurs. On Richard’s "Don’t" list:

Don’t imagine the audience in their underwear. "I

think I first heard of that on the Brady Bunch," says Richard,

"but it’s still a cliche. First of all, with some of the audiences

that I’m in front of, that would be a scary thought. Secondly, there

are better ways to relax. Instead of picturing people in their

underwear,

picture a friend in the audience."

Don’t rely on memory. Keep your notes in front of you.

"You never know when you might need them," says Richard.

"Having

notes does not say that you’re any less of a speaker — it just

says that you’re a professional speaker. I think if I didn’t have

them that’s when I really would draw a blank."

Finally, says Richard, don’t look at the audience as the

enemy.

"The audience has a vested interest in you doing a good job,"

says Richard, "because often they’ve paid to see you and they

want to see you succeed."

— Melinda Sherwood


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