Public Speaking for Psychologists: What I Learned

Mar 10 2019

Reading through a Public Speaking book

My work regularly involves presentations both internal and external to the organization. While the constant exposure makes it less nerve-wracking, public speaking is still an activity that causes me to stress until it’s done.  My workplace also has a strong mentorship program, and this year I’ve been paired as a mentor to a new staff member.  She experiences the same trepidation as I do when it comes to speaking and presentations.  Since we both enjoy reading and discussing books, we decided to incorporate some outside readings.

Another colleague recommended David Feldman’s book, Public speaking for psychologists: a lighthearted guide to research presentations, job talks, and other opportunities to embarass yourself.  Since neither of us had time to read a whole book, we decided to only read and discuss specific chapters that felt most relevant to us. You can read my full breakdown of each chapter at the links below:

I greatly enjoyed both chapters.  Despite it being for psychologists, Feldman’s tips are applicable for anyone who wants to refine their presentation skills.  Among other advice, he outlines the important of practice, considering your audience, and getting out of your own head.

In “[[Preparing and Delivering Your Talk]]” we found it very helpful to think of delivery from the perspective of stand-up comedians.  They have to have a very fine-tuned ability to read the audience.  I think many people also feel that their presentation is an imposition on their audience’s time.  While you should still value their time, they are coming to you for your perspective! Considering your own perspective to be equally valuable is part of the confidence crisis that can often sabotage your ability to speak well.

The “[[Managing Anxiety]]” chapter had more useful tips than I first thought it would, although I should have known better as it was written by and for a psychologist.  The visualizations were useful, and both my mentee and I have practiced them to great success.  The reflection prompts are also helpful to get at the root issues that can erode your sense of confidence.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book for digging into issues you may run into when preparing for a public speaking event.  It’s highly generalizable, but still contains concrete tips and tricks for getting through those obstacles.