Elements of Speech Communication: Noise & Interference
What Are Noise and Interference?
Typically, you know it when you hear it. Noise may be jarring and unpleasant and is usually an interruption or distraction when it occurs. Noise and interference block the sending or receiving of a message. When it comes to public speaking, noise and interference can be a major issue for both you as message sending and for your audience as your message receivers.
Quite simply, noise jams the signal you're trying to send as you speak.
Noise and interference can be both external or internal. It could be your microphone feeding back through a speaker, causing that ear-splitting high pitch squeal. You could be trying to talk over an auditorium full of chatty high schoolers. Or you could be giving a speech outdoors on a windy day and you're barely able to shout over the sound of the wind.
Internal noise and interference can be particularly challenging, since this often refers to the internal monologue you might be telling yourself before you get up on stage to speak: "I'm not good enough. I'm going to forget my speech. They're going to boo me." Internal noise can be psychological and semantic in nature, whereas external noise can be known as or include physical and physiological noise. Often, internal noise and interference are the result of anxiety, nervousness, or stress.
Whether internal or external, unless you're giving your speech in a vacuum, noise is unavoidable. Noise exists at all levels of communication and thus, no message is received exactly as the sender intends (despite his or her best efforts) because of the ever-presence of noise in communication.
Learning How to Tune It All Out
With regard to external noise, double check to see if there are any ways to boost your volume. You might need to physically project your voice a little more to be heard over a low din. You might even need to call attention to yourself so that your audience pays attention. And it's okay to ask your audience before you speak: "Can you hear me in the back?"
As for internal noise, fear is the enemy. If you're nervous about speaking, take a few moments before presenting to inhale some nice, deep breaths for a count of four: in through the nose for four, blow it out through the mouth for four. Repeat this until you can feel your heart rate slow down a little and the butterflies in your stomach settle down. You can do this!