Preparing for a Public Speaking Engagement As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Joe Strechay in a suit speaking to a group of people

Chances are you are on team “I am terrified of public speaking”. You’re far from alone; I’m on the same team, as are the mass majority of humans.

So why are we troubled by the notion of sharing knowledge, opinion, and expertise with a large audience? I think the very thought of public speaking ignites the burn of insecurity if we are self-conscious about, well, anything. I get it. I’m right there with you. Additionally, we recognize our bodies physiologically freak out when we walk to the podium, leaving us forgetting what we memorized, speeding up our words, shaking, or short of breath. (Boy, doesn’t that sound fun.)

Whether you are fully sighted, blind, or visually impaired, there are only two overarching solutions for increasing your public speaking skills and decreasing your related fear.

Number 1, prepare properly for each public speaking opportunity.

Number 2, practice public speaking. My guess is that those of you who aren’t on Team Terrified are well-practiced.

I can’t quite help you practice, but I do want to present preparation ideas for your future speaking opportunities. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Know your subject matter inside and out. The more you know about your topic in general, the less you will fear, and the more comfortable and confident you will feel and appear.
  • Write humor into your script. Connect with your audience using humor and a personal story. Everyone will feel more at ease.
  • Write audience participation questions into your speech. It will take the spotlight off of you and add interest to your presentation.
  • Type your complete speech. Consider asking a mentor for feedback on your speech draft.
  • Using your speech as a guide, devise condensed speaking points.
  • As a person who is blind or visually impaired, you can braille each speaking point on a notecard, type large print speaking points, or utilize technology. Joe Strechay, the CareerConnect program manager, shared his technology solution on the CareerConnect Message Boards. He wrote, “I use my iPhone and Voiceover to navigate through my notes. I use a Bluetooth ear piece, like a hands free device. I copy and paste my notes into an email and email it to myself, open the email and navigate through my notes.”
  • Memorize the speech. You will feel most confident when you know the material, using the speaking points as emergency backup, and the audience will feel most connected to you when you are paying attention to them instead of notes. Research a good memorization technique, such as the “Memory Palace” my husband swears by.
  • Rehearse your assertive body language, including eye contact. (Teachers of consumers who are blind or visually impaired, utilize the Exuding Confidence lesson plan to teach assertive body language.)
  • Military personnel and first responders are taught “tactical breathing” to quickly calm down in stressful situations. To prevent or reduce those physiological panic symptoms I previously mentioned, repeatedly breathe in through your nose for four seconds, pause four seconds, and out from the mouth for four seconds. This breathing pattern will lower your heart rate and is said to reduce the body’s “fight or flight” response. Use it behind the scenes before your presentation.

There you have it. Thoroughly prepare and seek opportunities to practice.

Can you add a public speaking preparation suggestion or personal success story into the comments section? Hearing from you would make my day!