Public Speaking 101 - Secrets YOU can use!Feb 28, 2022
I started my public speaking career as a nervous introvert, with absolutely no prior experience.
My first live presentation was on a Disney Cruise ship in a theater that held 800 guests and one panic-stricken presenter.
I vividly recall trying to convince other crew members to push me down the steps, because I was sure that if I had a broken leg, or twisted ankle, they couldn't make me do it. In hindsight, I can see how silly that was.
They would DEFINITELY have still made me do it.
I honestly remember very little about that first presentation. I seem to have blocked the entire memory. But I do remember the overwhelming fear before I started talking, and the intense relief when I was done.
Clearly, public speaking was not a natural talent for me.
So, that is why you can be sure when I say that you can overcome your fear, and become not just a competent speaker, but an excellent one, no matter who you are, it’s absolutely true. If I can do it, you can definitely do it.
There are some tricks and techniques I learned over the years, that made the entire process easier, and less stressful, that you can use to make public speaking an (almost) enjoyable experience.
The importance of becoming confident speaker can't be overstated. It will help you in every aspect of your career, from giving simple presentations at the office to negotiating a raise or a contract with a client, to being able to grab opportunities that arise to speak at meeting or events that you might otherwise shy away from.
But if you are terrified – you aren't alone – it’s in the top 3 fears of most adults. 75% of adults will actually list fear of public speaking AHEAD of fear of death.
So I have 10 tips that will help you get over the fear AND become a more confident speaker – READY?
They say that knowledge is power, but I would suggest that knowledge is confidence. My first four tips are all about using information to make you feel prepared.
- Know your material. The biggest fear hurdle for most people is that they will forget what they were supposed to say. So, write it out, practice it, write it out again in bullet points, practice it, write it out again in even shorter form, practice, and repeat. You want to keep doing this until you have just two or three words per bullet point, that will guide you through your entire presentation.
- Know your venue. Because the unknown is scary. The more you know, the better prepared you will feel. Find out as much as you can about the venue before the speaking date. Check out pictures of the room, check if there are steps up to the stage, or a podium for your notes. It helps you be prepared and take that one bit of anxiety off of your list.
- Know who will introduce you and how will you be introduced. There’s nothing that will throw you off your game faster, than having to get up on stage after someone has given the wrong information about you, or what you are going to speak about. It can send your entire presentation and your confidence off the rails. So be sure to clarify who will be introducing you and give them accurate notes about how to introduce what you are talking about, and any details to share about you, including how to pronounce your name, if it’s tricky.
- Know your audience. This one is key to delivering a great presentation. Even if the material you share is basically the same each time, knowing who you are speaking to allows you to add details to help you connect with them, and remove any information or references that may not be appropriate with that particular group. It also helps you create a relationship with the crowd, which feeds energy back to you, and keeps your performance on point.
- Elite athletes visualize their race or event from start to finish, hundreds of times before a competition. Walking through the entire routine or event helps them build their confidence, foresee possible issues, and convince their mind that when they walk into the real competition, that the win is almost guaranteed. After all, as far as their brain knows, they have done it a thousand times before. The same is true for you and your presentation. Imagine yourself walking up on the stage, arranging your notes, taking the microphone, and thanking the host and the audience for the warm welcome. Imagine every step of the way from start to finish. Visualize the receptive audience, the applause, and the confidence you will have as you speak to the smiling audience.
- Time it. Make sure you know exactly how long your presentation will be. Speakers generally have a specific time allotted, and going a bit short isn’t generally a problem, but you don't want to get halfway through your presentation to find you are almost out of time. That leaves you either awkwardly ending without following the full arc of your story, or quickly trying to figure out how to summarize the last half of your presentation in the time you have left. So, do everyone a favour, grab a timer, and stand up and say it aloud, as if you were really presenting to an audience. We speak much slower than we read, so if you time yourself reading it without saying it aloud, it will be much shorter than the actual live presentation will be.
- Find a friendly face. This trick was always my secret weapon. I would arrive to my presentations 15 minutes early, so I could walk down in front of the stage and chat with some of the guests seated there. The idea is to build a connection, and create a few raving fans in the front row, so that when you get up on stage and the nerves hit, you have a few groups of people to focus on, that are smiling at you, and cheering you on. It boosts your confidence and helps you tune out the rest of the crowd if you get overwhelmed
- No matter what happens its over in ____ minutes. This is the other secret weapon for those times when it REALLY goes wrong. Just keep going, carry on and no matter what happens at the end of your time, it is done, over. You could just stand there and say nothing for 15 minutes (not that I recommend that) but at the end of the 15 minutes it would be over. So, hang in there
- Remember no one probably noticed that little slip but you. You know the material, you know what order you are supposed to do it in, or what word you meant to use just then, but THEY don’t. So just keep going, carry on, and don’t give that mistake another thought. If you keep thinking about that slip up, you will be distracted, and make more mistakes, as you move through the talk. Just let it go and move on.
- Record yourself. It’s hard to watch – and I promise it never gets easier for most of us. But it’s incredibly useful for improving your performance. We all have verbal ticks that we don't even realize we have, like ums and ahs, or other filler words we use in a repetitive manner. We also have gestures, movements and physical ticks that will distract your audience, that you are blissfully unaware of. The best way to catch and fix your unique verbal and physical tics, is to record yourself presenting, and then watch it back to see what you can catch and improve. It will also help you pick up parts of your presentation that might not be clear, or flow properly. Watching yourself, like your audience will observe you, is one of the best ways to improve both your presentation skills, and your material, at the same time.
Perhaps the most important tip of all, is to just start doing it. The best way to improve at public speaking is to actually speak in front of crowds. So, take the opportunities whenever they arise, and push yourself beyond what is comfortable, to grow your skills.
The more you do it, the better you will get, so get out there and practice.
Now the only way you will actually get more confident is to DO IT!
So I want you all to commit right here to do one thing next week to make some progress.
Either write a short script that would be useful for your business (think content like a video for social media or a Vlog entry and then practice it and then film it and watch it to critique yourself.
OR – jump right in – find an event or opportunity where you can get on stage, even for a minute or two to introduce someone, introduce your business, talk about your area of expertise, etc. The more you get on stages the better – it just gets easier and easier.
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