As a lawyer the ability to think and communicate with ease is by far the most priceless skill you could possess. Lawyers are trained to readily think on their feet. And while the lawyer’s gift of gab is often lauded, the gift of public speaking is rarely hereditary. Rather it is honed through years of concerted effort. As noted by Dale Carnegie in his book “Public Speaking” “Even those who afterward became the most eloquent representation of their generations were at the outset of their careers afflicted by blinding fear and self-consciousness”. So take heart if you get a little high-strung talking to an audience. Just follow the tips below and your social nightmares will be all over.
Credits to human ingenuity, we may have invented the printing press to escape the drudgery of writing on clay, papyrus and parchment. A self-propulsion machine in the car, in place of the horse-driven carriage. But when it comes to the subject of mastery, we haven’t had half the success. We are yet to invent a good enough substitute for practice (which they say makes perfect). As things stand, the existing rule on mastery of public speaking says that the only accepted way to learn to swim is to plunge into the water. That when you gain useful experience under your belt your stage fright will vanish like night mists under the glare of the July sun. So it’s important lawyers and law students alike do the same. As a law student, the moot and mock faculty courts and competitions offer the likeliest opportunity to practice public speaking and get familiar with the sound of your own voice.
(2) Know your subject thoroughly
They say fear is begotten of ignorance. And I can do little but concur. One of the reason our fears run away with us when we approach anything resembling a podium is because we don’t know the subject we’ve been summoned to lecture on extensively. I bet you’ll agree with me on this. Just imagine if you were invited to talk to a bunch of toddlers, would that scare you? Obviously not, the reason being that there’s nothing toddlers know that could possibly scare you. That is because you have the benefit of experience. You’ll no doubt feel you know too much already to give them the speech of your life on just about any subject. In this same way, prepare thoroughly before going out to give a speech on anything. It will arm you with confidence.
Speech they say comes from breath. When before an audience breathe in before you ever let a word out of your mouth. Breathing well will make your voice stronger. Your speech will be much smoother with proper breathing. Again it will make it easier for you to pause at the right moment when you speak.
(4) Keep things simple
We’ve talked about simplicity in speaking elsewhere. As a confident speaker you need to avoid a major communication breakdown with your audience through your use of grandiloquent words. It will send your audience the wrong message about you. Keep things simple.
(5) Articulation spawns from watching and listening
Imitate prominent public speakers. Observe their style, cadence, tone of voice and body language. Observe your favorite series for any catchy lines you can adopt for later usage
(6) Communicate at the audience’s level
Try to communicate with the same vocabulary as your audience. In expressing your point of view, make references to things that are common to your audience not those that are peculiar to you alone.
(7) Record your own voice
When you record your own voice using audio recorders, you’ll become familiar with your tone of speech, also detect any bad habits you may have developed overtime (habits that involve repeating words like um, like, uh). Once you notice these speaking anomalies in you, work hard at improving these fillers with occasional pauses. Recording your voice will also give you an indication of your voice modulation, pronunciation and speed of talking.
Bonus: watch your gestures
You need to maintain the proper gestures to look confident. Always maintain eye contact with your audience and look at them as though they owed you money. Stand erect. Always act as if you were already confident and the natural confidence will follow.
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LLB from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja. In his spare time, Patrick doubles as a professional writer and copyeditor.
If you have any urgent enquiries, you can email him @[email protected]