Tips on Public Speaking:
One of our worst enemies of our success is fear. When we feel fear, it can have a paralyzing effect on us. It is our natural, internal ‘fight or flight’ mode. This was useful to our ancestors who lived in a time when staying rooted to the spot until the danger passed or ran to get out of danger was a real life threat to them. We no longer have this kind of fear to live with but sometimes fear is a useful emotion i.e. when we have to judge how quickly we need to cross the road to avoid being hit by a car or bus The sooner we realise the paralysing effect fear has on our bodies, the sooner we will realise that it is not a good emotion to give space to in our life.
Other names for fear are anxiety or stress. These are often emotions associated with public speaking. A good definition of anxiety is ‘a state of fear of something that may never happen.’ Associated fear about public speaking can be rejection, being negatively evaluated by our peers, feeling self-conscious in front of groups, appearing nervous or fear of others judging us.
Our perceived fear of public speaking is mostly irrational – yes – we may go through the ‘stage fright’ scenario of our body going into ‘flight or fight’ mode but you can learn to harness those feelings and step out onto the stage and make your presentation or performance authentic because you have those feelings.
Jerry Seinfeld made a great joke based on surveys carried out in America – “I read a thing that actually says that speaking in front of a crowd is considered the number one fear of the average person. I found that amazing – number two was death! That means to the average person if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
A good point to remember is – if you are have being asked to stand up and give a presentation then the majority of those watching you are there because:
a) they believe that you are the expert in that field or
b) they can learn something from you.
Your audience usually wants you to succeed – remember your presentation is more about your audience than it is about you.
The Seven Top Tips
Find your own style
Do you prefer to stand or move around? Be aware that moving around too much can distract from your message, but deliberate body movement to empower what you are saying is key. Study someone you admire but be aware of copying some else’s style -it may just not suit you or your personality.
Be aware of the movements you make. If you make nervous body moves, your audience will pick up your nerves and feel nervous for you. Stand up straight, smile, engage. Avoid hopping from one foot to another or leaning on just one leg. Don’t hide behind a podium or props – it may be tempting but you are simply hiding from your audience. Come out from behind the podium or prop and engage, move and let the audience feel your energy and passion for the subject you are talking about.
Eye contact and engagement.
Whether you are talking to 25 people or 500, make everyone in the room feel included and engage with your audience.
Everyone we see in public whether they are a performer, comedian, politician or actor – has planned their talk and what they are going to say. If you are not prepared then you are not going to feel confident about what your presentation.
Practice does make perfect. Stand up in your room or office and give your talk or presentation – if you can do it in front of a friend or film yourself so you can give yourself feedback then do it.
Rehearsing is different to practice. So, rehearse i.e. go through your presentation from beginning to end as if you were in front of a real, intended audience. If you slip up, continue to the very end. Don’t stop as you would in a practice scenario, but deliver your presentation as if in real time. If time allows it, go back and practice the parts of your presentation that need perfecting. In an ideal situation, I like to dress rehearse my presentation at the actual venue some hours or if not the day before.
Use positive affirmations as you prepare “I can do this” is much more effective than thinking negatively “I can’t do this” or “I’m going to make a fool of myself” is destruction to your sub-conscious mind – feed it positivity! Visualise yourself giving a successful performance or presentation – this can be incredibly powerful. A great confidence trick is to ‘act’ that you are confident – you’ll be surprised how this can make you feel more confident.
Being a public speaker puts you in the realm of been seen as a leader or an expert – because not everyone takes the time to become a good public speaker. It is powerful, rewarding and worth the time and effort that you may need to put in to make your next presentation outstanding!