Contrary to what some might think speaking in public is a skill that can be practiced and learnt with time.
Confidently presenting ourselves, our businesses, our viewpoints helps others understand and learn.
As Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen says:
It does not matter if you are the best at what you do or are just starting out. In the moment it only matters that you are fully present and sharing, or teaching, or collaborating in the spirit of contribution.
Have you actively pursued opportunities that influenced your confidence to speak publicly?
Or put more simply; what have you done to learn to speak in public!
Improving our public speaking could come from:
- school debating teams
- student representative councils
- personal development courses
- network marketing
- sales training
- leadership workshops
- taking a leadership role in a
- sporting club
- service club
- or networking organisation
Any one of these situations can see us become the focal point of the room, the centre of attention.
We may change so gradually that we hardly realise our improvement. A short weekly burst in the spotlight such as a BNI 60 Seconds or as part of our occupation in sales or customer service may force us to grow.
However it happens, watching someone gradually gain confidence and assert their voice proudly in a room full of people is a delightful process to witness.
I’ve watched many people whom join an organisation and at first speak so softly and with such reservation that one might wonder if they were whispering. Fast forward some months as their confidence increases and their true enthusiasm starts to shine.
Dr Ivan Misner has some suggestions for becoming more confident public speakers in his podcast on Fear of Speaking. He has seen many BNI members get nervous about giving their 10-minute presentations.
Here are a few suggestions based on Ivans ideas for handling your fear of public speaking.
- It’s okay to be nervous. A little can improve your performance.
- Prepare as much as possible. Have notes but don’t read them.
- Let your passion show. Share what you love about you do.
- Tell stories. A great story is a fact wrapped in an emotion.
- Repeat yourself. Verbal repetition reinforces your message.
And with those ideas in mind. Here are my
7 Ways to Make Public Speaking Easier
These work wether standing in front of a camera or a room full of people. I use these techniques to reduce anxiety and deliver a great presentation.
Feel free to adapt any of these ideas to suit your style and personality if you like them.
1. Understand the topic
I can talk to a group on short notice in a reasonably coherent way whether I have made notes or not about websites, internet marketing, domain names, hosting, email, computers, kitesurfing, sailing, outrigger paddling, parenting, economics, Australia, Newcastle and other aspects of my world view that I live and experience regularly. These are topics that I read about, listen to podcasts on, have studied, enjoy learning about and over the years have absorbed millions of words.
If I tried to give a talk about a topic of which I had no specific knowledge of though it would not likely turn out so well. Put me in a room full of people and ask me to explain how to replace the clutch plate in a manual transmission of a car though and I’d be stuffed. But bring out a mechanic who has been doing that kind of work for years and keeps up to date with industry knowledge and listen as an explanation flows forth almost without prompting.
If you are going to give a presentation select a topic that you are interested in and understand!
2. List key points
Before I stand up and speak I will aim to have a list of the points I want to cover on a piece of paper in front of me. If it’s very short notice then a mental list is almost as good. This is a road map for the presentation. Whether there is 1 minute to fill or 10, if I can have the 3 points or ideas that I’m aiming to convey noted then it will reduce the chance of tangenting down a line of thought or forgetting where I’m up to.
3. Answer questions
Rather than trying to ‘give a speech’ I will sometimes think of a question or let the audience ask one, and then launch into a lively answer to that question. In my roles at Jezweb I’m having to answer questions and find solutions every day and so if I can ask my mind a question then usually it will connect with some past experience or idea and get me on a roll.
4. Absorb information
A flow of new information into my mind helps create new connections between ideas and establish concepts that I ay be able to repurpose in future presentations. I may not read a lot of books from cover to cover each year but every day I’m reading blogs, news, articles, stories and opinion, listening to podcasts and discussing ideas with other people.
Without this ongoing stimulus, if I let myself become mentally cut off from what is going on around me or stop reading and learning then quite quickly there will be a lack of ideas, anecdotes and information which can be repurposed for speaking in public, blog writing, conversation and content creation.
5. Act bravely
It’s not that I wake up every day wishing I could stand in front of a room and speak. I will look for all sorts of ways to avoid having to walk into a room of people I have never met because for me that is uncomfortably daunting.
Speaking to a room of people who want to hear what I have to say though is exciting. It’s a bit scary especially if I get stuck and lose my place or talk myself to a dead end but its fun if it goes well.
Being memorable does not happen by being moderate and calm. I generally find that creating a slightly exaggerated version of my personality and bouncing around a bit, speaking loudly, boldly and assertively tends to drown out the nervous part of my mind.
6. Share an experience
If you have ever tried to listen to some audio of people speaking or an interview where the person answering the questions is using very theoretical and unspecific terms its enough to send someone to sleep.
People engage with stories. This is true of any form of discussion, argument or presentation. If I can find some past experience or recall the anecdote of someone else and insert that into a talk then it will be far more memorable.
We connect with emotion, our minds want to be able to visualise what is being said. By providing that visual context and relatable experience the audience of our presentation will be much more intently listening.
7. Glass of water
This is one I learned from a radio show host who said that he didn’t drink coffee before going on air. Or in my case, before presenting. I find that drinks with milk tend to make my through a bit less clear and that can knock my confidence a little because I can’t pronounce words so loudly and clearly. Add eating a heavy meal to this lot too. Best bet is some fruit in my experience and take a glass of water to the table so that I can have a quick drink before and if necessary during the presentation.
I hope that has given you some ideas to make your next presentation more confident and effective!
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