If you browse in Google for the term "public speaking" you will get about 121 million responses. Admittedly that is a lot, however when you are the one standing in front of an audience or group, there are never enough details in the world that can get you over that worry. What is it about speaking in public that gets the heart racing and the butterflies flying in the tummy almost uncontrollably?
I have spoken in large and small audiences over the past 30 years and here are my top tips to put your mind at ease when it comes to that moment when it all goes quiet and everyone is looking at you to deliver a professional talk!
Public Speaking Tip Number 1 – Know Your Subject
Do not just have a good idea about your subject, I mean really know it, inside out, upside down, so that whatever question someone might toss at you, you will probably know the answer. You almost need to deliver your speech by heart; having done your research, you will have reached the public speaking ‘Nirvana’ and get that "sensation" and supreme confidence that you know what you are talking about. Be aware though, that there will probably be someone in the audience who knows this subject just as much as you do, so keep everything honest, no exaggerations otherwise you could get caught out!
Public Speaking Tip Number 2 – Practice, practice, practice
When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal. Practice should also focus our energy totally in reaching that goal, providing you do not allow distractions to interrupt. You must practice your talk/presentation before delivering it. I cannot stress that enough as being a key step in delivering the best result you possibly can.
Talk to a mirror, video yourself, talk in the car, do anything that makes you practice what you are going to talk about, then observe your results and make any appropriate adjustments. Perhaps you talk too quickly and need to slow down, perhaps you look too fierce, and perhaps you even ‘umm’ and ‘ah’ too much. Practice will not necessarily make you perfect, but it will make you better.
Public Speaking Tip Number 3 – Get mentally ready
Try always to have a small amount of time on your own in quiet reflection before entering the room/hall to start speaking. For me, I like to enter my ‘circle of excellence’, an NLP confidence boosting technique that has served me well over the years. For that, keep your eyes pealed on my weekly newsletter and I will put the technique up for you to try. I also carry in my pocket a small crystal. All crystals have an energetic and vibrational force, and you will pick up on that. It will help. I use a small piece of blue aquamarine (the colour of communication) and just holding it reminds me of how strong I really am. It also great to mentally visualize beforehand actually doing your talk, seeing yourself on the stage, interacting with the audience and receiving applause! You may smile at these, but you know what? They really do work if you believe they will!
Public Speaking Tip Number 4 – Know your Audience
Greet as many of the attendees prior to your talk as possible. Familiarity promotes self-confidence. Self-confidence follows on from Tip Number 1, but this step is an important one. Firstly, you will gain key personal contact with your audience early on and before you start your subject. Secondly, it is a pleasant action to do, and far better than standing quietly behind the lectern or sitting down – like you are hiding from something. It is also likely that you will pick up on what the audience really wants from you, so if necessary you can refer to that when you are talking. This will make everyone feel that they are part of the talk/presentation and are far more engaged in what you are saying. So, get personal and start shaking those hands!
Public Speaking Tip Number 5 – The Power of the Pause
To add some drama or to emphasize a major point, use a pause in your talk. Suddenly the room is quiet and the audience is kept in anticipation about what you are going to say next. As Simon and Art Garfunkel once sang about “And no one dared, disturb the sound of silence”, this is so true when delivering your talk. If anyone was daydreaming or distracted in any way, this is the tactic to get everyone back on track with you. The pause does not have last long – a few seconds of silence will inevitably create the correct result in achieving suspense. It also acts to emphasize a key point in your talk and one, which you particularly want the audience to remember and go away with at the end.
Public Speaking Tip Number 6 – Get Sensory
Think about what methods you will use to get your message across. Understand that many of us learn through different stimuli. In particular, I am referring to the following three modalities that trigger engagement through sensory impact, those being visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Some of us are more engaged visually so need to see photographs, film clips, drawings and data charts for example. On the other hand some of us are more prone to learning through listening (auditory) – music and speech. And then some of us need to have a kinesthetic feeling or to get ‘hands on’ and be emotionally attached to what you are saying. Where possible try and include all 3 of these methods in your talk, as you are more likely to capture the interest of a greater number of the audience.
Public Speaking Tip Number 7 – Smile and Enjoy
Who would you prefer to watch and listen to? Someone who has a face of worry, intensity and fear, or someone who smiles occasionally, has a twinkle in their eye and has a warm personality. I know which one I would choose! You do not have to tell jokes, but it is nice if you can come across as having a sense of warmth and ease. You will do no harm whatsoever if you can make people laugh or smile without overdoing it of course. In doing so, you should also be able to enjoy yourself, after all if you are not enjoying it, then why do it?