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Public Speaking Events in Inland Empire
Public Speaking Events in Inland Empire

Public speaking still terrifies most people

Three-quarters of the U.S. population reportedly fear it more than anything else, but if you’re in that group, a local public speaking school can help

There’s a great observation by comedian Jerry Seinfeld about public speaking being the thing people in the United States fear the most.

Seinfeld, citing various studies, noted more people were afraid of having to stand up in front of a crowd and speak than they were of dying. That led him to conclude that most people at a funeral would prefer being in the casket to delivering the eulogy.

Whether the fear of public speaking is that pronounced is debatable. Some studies say yes, but others disagree, that more people fear dying than fear having to get up in front of a group of people they’ve never met and talk about something.

Either way, no one can argue that many people fear public speaking and will do almost anything to avoid having to do it. A Google search for “fear of public speaking” turns up nearly 68 million hits, which helps explain why psychologists gave the condition a name: glossophobia.

Seventy four percent of the U.S. population suffers from speech anxiety, and the condition is shared equally among men and women, according to a study released in November by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Symptoms of glossophobia, besides sweaty palms and a knot in the stomach, include trying to end the speech as soon as possible, avoiding any pauses or interruptions, not making eye contact with the audience and – perhaps worst of all – trying to hide your nervousness in the first place.

Those are all normal responses to speech anxiety, but they all work against the speaker, the power of their remarks and the message they’re trying to get across, according to a local high school instructor who started a school for public speaking one year ago.

“I think most people who are afraid of public speaking are really afraid just to go up there and be themselves,” said Ron Berglas, owner and operator of It’s Me Public Speaking. “I think they’re afraid of being judged negatively by their audience, which is one thing you should never worry about. “One of the main ideas behind any public speaking is to get your point across to your audience and not worry about how they’re responding to you.”

Berglas, who spent 25 years working as an actor in England, teaches English at Citrus Continuation High School in Fontana and acting at San Bernardino Valley College. He admits he never had a problem speaking in public, but said he always sympathized with people who did.

Berglas began working with his high school students on their public speaking skills about four years ago, then decided to start his own company. He soon found out that fear of public speaking knows no class or social distinctions.

“I know CEO’s who are afraid to get up and speak in front of people,” Berglas said. “They either avoid it entirely, if they can, or they get someone to do it for them.”

While not everyone is meant to be a great orator, just about anyone can learn to speak with some skill in front of an audience, according to Berglas.

“In 12 weeks, I took a high school student who could barely speak and got her to where she could get up in front of 2,000 people and knock the place out,” Berglas said. “It was an incredibly powerful speech about her brother getting shot. I also worked with a local politician recently, someone in the Inland Empire. I can’t say who it was but she did win her election.”

Berglas said he tells all of his students the following:
The most important part of being a successful public speaker is preparation. Figure out what you want the text to say, then write it as clearly and concisely as possible.
Read the material out loud several times before you deliver it, but do not try to memorize it;
Never read exclusively from the text. Always make some eye contact with the audience, and don’t rush through your remarks;
Never worry about how the audience is responding to you, or how it’s judging what you’re saying. If you do that you will lose sight of your main task, getting your message across;
Remember that the audience is on your side. It wants to hear what you have to say, and it wants you to succeed. No one wants to sit through a bad speech;
Also remember that your nervousness about public speaking won’t go away overnight. Over time, you will become more relaxed, and eventually you will be anxious to get up and speak.

Eric Groeber, principal at Citrus Continuation, said he sought out Berglas’ help after deciding that he wasn’t nearly as good a public speaker as he believed he was.

“If you’re a school principal you have to do a lot of public speaking,” Groeber said. “It’s part of the job so you get up and do it. But it’s easy to think you’re better at it than you really are.”

Groeber said his public speaking became “more powerful” after working with Berglas, who placed great emphasis on hitting certain parts of the text to drive home a point.

“I knew I had developed a more powerful delivery, and the feedback I got from people was unbelievable,” Groeber said.

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