Letter from the President – May 2019 Connect

Greetings EWI of Spokane Executives and Representatives:

EWI of Spokane’s May chapter meeting is our annual Scholarship Banquet. This banquet celebrates and rewards the brightest student minds in our local community with substantial scholarships and features those minds’ inspiring ideas in the beloved two-minute speech: “This, I believe…” I hope you will be there.

The average person speaks 7,000 words per day. So why does speaking to a crowd cause so much anxiety? Fear of other’s opinions? Fear of being embarrassed or vulnerable? Fear of messing up? Here are some tips and inspiration to help you overcome the fear of public speaking:

Tip #1: Have a Purpose and a Passion. Most speeches are not impromptu. Typically, you know in advance that you’re expected to speak and what you’re expected to speak about. Once you know your topic, find a story, theme or principle about that topic that inspires you. Pick one to three points to communicate your passion about this story, theme, or principle to
your audience. When you are inspired to speak, others will want to listen.

Tip #2: Use an Active Voice. To keep your audience engaged, use an active voice. An “active voice” is a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb in a subject + verb + object framework. The English language is full of thought-provoking action words that convey powerfully clear and concise ideas. Those ideas are lost when the action words are buried by a subject that stops acting and, instead, is acted upon. A passive voice is often vague and wordy. It loses its purpose, power, and passion (unless you’re intentionally trying to build suspense or to avoid focusing on the actor). Consider which of the following two sentences conveys more power, more clarity, and more concision when spoken aloud:

Active voice: He wept.
Passive voice: Tears came out of his eyes.

Tip #3: Quality over Quantity. As the example above conveys, keep your speech short and simple. Choose quality words, and use an active voice to convey your message in clear, concise sentences, and avoid “filler words” (such as “It is”, “In my opinion”, or “I think”).

Tip #4: Speak Slowly and with Inflection. Speaking slowly will help you regulate your breathing and give your mind a chance to organize your thoughts and choose your words carefully before you speak them. Look again at the active v. passive voice example in Tip #2. I can imagine a speaker uttering the first sentence with a slow cadence, emphasizing the second word (“wept”) and then pausing to allow those two simple words to settle in to the listener’s mind. The second sentence requires a faster cadence and lacks impact compared to the first sentence. (Try saying it out loud. I dare you!)

Tip #5: Be Authentic. Above all, audiences love and connect with an authentic speaker. Don’t try to emulate anyone. Be yourself, and be willing to be a little vulnerable. If you mess up, that’s okay. You’re human, just like everyone in the audience.

Tip #6: Seize Opportunities to Speak. EWI offers multiple opportunities for its representatives to train and flex their oratory skills. If you are interested in an opportunity to speak, contact me. I am here to help.

See you at the Scholarship Banquet!