There are studies that say that public speaking is the #1 fear for most people. The fear of standing in front of a crowd ranks even higher than the fear of death and disease for many. Public speaking is not something you are born to do; it is something you can learn to do, master and even enjoy. If you are someone whose job requires public speaking, here are some helpful tips to put everything is perspective.
- Prepare. For most speakers preparation is the key to success. Time spent crafting the speech, so that it flows logically and is illustrated with stories and examples, is time well spent. Practice it out loud, until you’re comfortable. If it’s an important speech, videotape or practice the presentation in front of a mirror. Rehearsal does not indicate a lack of control. The main reason public speaking is uncomfortable is that you have no idea how you’re coming across, and this can appear as unease and being inauthentic to the audience.
- Think about what your particular audience wants to hear. Are they craving new information? Insights? What problem do they hope to solve? Give them what they want and need in a compelling way. Find creative ways to provide information. All of us can recall stagnant and dull presentations that we have sat through. They are excruciatingly boring and do nothing to showcase any genuine interest that the presenter may have in the subject matter. Audiences equate enthusiasm with the level of engagement that will be brought later to any actual work or services rendered. It is not how most presenters want to be viewed.
- Model yourself – Pay attention to the presentations and speaking styles of others that you enjoyed or admired. When you listen to a great speaker or hear someone mention one, get a transcript of the speech or watch a video of their speech on YouTube or TED Talks. Watch them and notice how they present themselves. The idea is not to completely emulate them, but to learn a couple of things that you can incorporate into your own personal style.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses as a speaker, and accentuate the positive. If you have a great sense of humor, use it. If you’re not a natural cut-up, don’t try to be; you do not need to start off with a joke or a one-liner. Instead, focus on what you do best. Do you have a great story to tell? Do you have an interesting idea your audience might not have considered? Do you have information they should hear? Frame your speech not only around your message but around who you are as a person. Thoughtful and thought-provoking is every bit as powerful as dynamic and humorous and silly.
- Visualize – Visit the room where you will be speaking….stand at the podium/table where you will present and actually look out into the rows of seats. Another suggestion would be to watch videos (again via YouTube or TED Talks) of speakers that are highlight the speaker’s vantage point; this way you can see what it’s like to face audiences of different sizes.
The bottom line is to have fun with your material (if the topic allows for it). Audiences feed off the mood and tone of the presentation as much as they do the material. Relax and smile at the audience as you approach the podium and continue your smile as you begin speaking. This will help you feel relaxed, confident, and connected, and smiles are infectious. If you are smiling and relaxed, your audience will be smiling and relaxed too.
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