Finding Your Comfort Zone In Public Speaking
At CDTA College of Law, all of your classes take place in our beautiful courtrooms/classrooms. From your first day of classes as a 1L, you will find yourself in a courtroom for every class. By the time you graduate, you will have a huge advantage over other law grads as you will feel exceptionally comfortable speaking in a courtroom. However, you may still benefit from some public speaking pointers specifically addressing courtroom speaking.
Many attorneys have mixed feelings about public speaking, or, more specifically, speaking in a courtroom setting. It is not uncommon for attorneys to express that they have feelings of uneasiness when they start speaking but then, after a few minutes, they start to relax and rise to the challenge, even, enjoying their time speaking.
They typically describe it with statements such as “at first, I’m a little uncomfortable, but once I get going after a few minutes, I’m fine,” or “in the first couple of minutes, I’m a little stiff, but then I warm up and it becomes easy.”
So why are the first two or three minutes so difficult? Why does it take some length of time to “get going”? What is it that changes after a couple of minutes that transforms the feeling from uneasiness to relaxation, if not, eventual exhilaration? Why does it take some time for speakers to craft their comfort zone each time they speak? At some point, shouldn’t it all become natural, free, and easy?
One solution is to immediately use gestures from the beginning of a speech or presentation. For many speakers, it seems to take time for gestures to naturally flow. A certain progression seems to occur when a public speaker begins. Typically, the upper body and extremities are inert during the first two minutes. Then, twitches and spasms start to occur, signaling that the body is trying to overcome the inertia and anxiety, especially since the body is in a state of rest.
Next, as a speaker’s impulses to gesture increase, subtle body movements begin and start to evolve into more distinct movements. Then, after this brief warmup period, these movements start to occur, flowing more naturally as the body relaxes and increasingly becomes tension-free. While there seems to be a negative correlation between stress and pleasure., there is most certainly a positive correlation between the use of body language, e.g., gestures, and feeling relaxed. It may be expressed as follows: “A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” Thus, inertia affects public speaking.
Another key to overcoming fear when speaking in a courtroom or in public is to speak in phrases rather than long, whole sentences. This type of delivery is less hurried and frantic when using phrases that end with audible pauses, allowing the speaker time to think ahead and consider his or her next thought and statement. Rather than rushing, the speaker is working at an easy, flowing pace that makes the experience more enjoyable for the listener.
Practice the first two minutes of a presentation. Practice improvising initial sentences at a set pace, one by one. Pause completely at the end of each sentence. Practice, simultaneously, the initial gestures that will accompany these first statements.
The goal is to have the ability to relax and act naturally at the time the first word of a speech is uttered. The ability to get loose and gesture immediately, rather than after the first two minutes of a speech. Begin speaking in phrases rather than an abrupt, mechanical recitation of the sentences of your first paragraph. Practice this introductory section repeatedly. Get in the groove from the start rather than waiting for the first two minutes to pass.
An attorney-advocate must have an effective arsenal of weapons in her trial advocacy toolbox. Not all law schools emphasize trial advocacy skills like the California Desert Trial Academy. The CDTA was founded with the philosophy of not only teaching students the substantive law, but on training, educating, and developing students to be exceptional attorney-advocates. The development of trial advocacy tools is essential to success in any judicial or administrative setting. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.