We need to speak publicly every day in all areas of our lives. However, not all of us give a public address or speech daily. Usually, when we do, it’s a significant event! The run-up can be filled with dread, anxiety, sleepless nights and fear. Sound familiar?
Here are 5 techniques which work for my clients and me to help eliminate the dread, anxiety, fear and sleepless nights before a public speech or presentation. These techniques will help you own the space, tell your story, sell your idea, speak with impact, leave a lasting impression with your audience and Rock the Room.
“The best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about.” – Michael H Mescon
In life, preparation is vital although some people can wing it. Usually, we can’t. I’m certainly not the winging kind – I need preparation. Spending time preparing alleviates a level of pre-performance anxiety. Familiarity with your content enables you to relax with the text. In so doing, the audience will be able to relate to the message because you are talking to them and not reading to them.
“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Public Speaking has many different styles. The presentation, formal speech, academic lecture, sales pitch and informal, social speech. The list is endless, but the theme is the same – speaking publicly. Movement will differ in each style of public speech. My rule of thumb is that movement should enhance what you are saying not detract from it. In layman’s terms, this means – no fidgeting, fiddling or swaying. Ideally, hand movements should stay close to the body and not be too exaggerated. Whichever type of speech you are giving; your feet must be grounded to the floor. Even if you move and then stop and speak each time you speak its best your feet are grounded. This will stop swaying which gives the speaker a sense of confidence that translates to the audience.
Connecting with your audience
“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
A successful speech will connect with the audience and invoke a response. To achieve this we use, yes you guessed it, communication. The audience will connect to you if they see you and hear you. This will alleviate some of the dread and fear you may have felt if you see a response from the audience: laugh at a joke, empathetic eyes at a sad story, focus and concentration when needing to receive and hear information.
I use this acronym in my work with clients – it has served me well. L.E.T – Look – Engage – Tell. I can’t stress it enough. Eye contact is essential to excellent, informative and successful Public Speaking.
Pause and Effect
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” – Mark Twain
Effective pausing is one of my favorite aspects when public speaking. Pausing is crucial to the audience being able to take in what you are saying. It enables the speaker to take a breath which gives power to their voice. In turn, this can help the speaker add variety and nuance to their voice and makes them sound impressive, funny, sad, informative, etc. Do not underestimate the simple pause; it can have a fantastic effect.
Tell your story
Adding personal anecdotes humanizes a speech or presentation. Do not be afraid to put a little bit of “you” into the presentation. The audience will remember that. This is universal, no matter what the speaking situation – humanizing the speech with your anecdotes will enable the audience to relate not only to the address but to the speaker. A speech needs to have a beginning, middle, and end. Most audiences will listen to the beginning, drift in the middle and come back at the end.
A successful Public Speech is when the audience is listening and engaging to the whole speech from beginning to end. When that happens, you’ve Rocked the Room.