Friday, January 1, 2010

Resolve to read less and learn more this year

There is a huge amount of information about public speaking on the Web, ranging from brief blog posts to long articles. Much of it is commercial crap which is not worth reading. How can you sift through this vast “digital sewer” to find anything relevant or useful?

If you search via Google for the quoted phrase “public speaking” you will find roughly 7,000,000 items. When you restrict your search to items posted in the last 24 hours you still will find roughly 115,000 items. Here are six simple steps to follow for more quickly homing in on “the good stuff”:

1. Narrow your search by adding another specific phrase in quotes, like “overcoming anxiety” or “opening your speech.”

2. When you find a potentially interesting item, read the first few paragraphs. Check whether it is written without spelling errors. If spelling was not checked, then it may be someone’s unedited brain dump.

3. Read another few paragraphs. See if the article is written clearly and concisely. If not, then don’t waste any more of your time.

4. Go back to the beginning, and then click on the first link you find. See if you really are just getting a commercial teaser. Are you being invited to buy an e-book, a CD, a DVD, or a course in order to get their juicy insider secrets?

5. Who wrote it? If the item just belongs to “Admin” or “Staff”, then look out! It may be borrowed from elsewhere and carelessly pasted together by unsubs (unknown subjects, as the perpetrators are called on the TV show, Criminal Minds). Look for an “About” or “Bio” tab on the page. Read about the author. Decide if they sound knowledgeable and believable.

6. Don’t just look around on the open web. Go to the web site for your public library, and search in their databases for magazine articles. Use your library card as the key to unlock a smaller but better collection of information. Databases even have subject indexes. Your city, county or state already has paid for access to these materials via your taxes. You don’t have to buy them again on your own.

For example, look at the first three paragraphs from an article in American Chronicle by Sam Chapman on how to Overcome Your Public Speaking Fear:

“There are some people who have no difficulty speaking in public at all. Many others, even if they do not show it, get very anxious when speaking in public. If you are in the latter group, you need to know that you can take steps to Overcome Your Public Speaking Fear (link).

Performance anxiety, panic attacks, stage fright – whatever you chose to call it, it can cause tremendous fear and anxiety in many people. The fear of speaking in public is one of the greatest fears that most people will face.

The kind of anxiety people suffering from a fear of public speaking is the same kind of fear some feel when called on in a classroom or meeting. It can be the same as having to sing or perform in public. Some people have this fear when if people surprise them and sing happy birthday to them. For many people, public speaking fear comes from a fear of embarrassing themselves or being judged or criticized.”

The very first paragraph ends with a link to a site that sells a PanicAway course. Also, the first sentence in the third paragraph is missing the word “feel” after the phrase “public speaking.” Finally, the third sentence has a redundant combination of “when if.” Stop reading and go somewhere else!

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