Public Speaking Tips
Public speaking is considered as being the most stressful thing right after the fear of death. When I learnt that I became both, more stressed about the idea of ever having to speak in public and relaxed as it was some kind of prove I wasn’t the only one finding it stressful.
Over the time I went from an overwhelming fear to perceiving public speaking as a positive challenge opportunity and a way to gain more experience with it.
Public speaking can be speeches given on a special occasion (inauguration, grand opening, jubilee), performance at conferences or the usual town halls given to your employees or work peers.
So far I have experienced the three types and can say they require different kind of focus and preparation. I can imagine since we are not alike we most likely have a different set of tools that help us with it. But here is what works for me.
Have a structure to what you want to say
Structure means a plan and a sequence. In other words put the information you want to share and order it in a way that best suits you or would be the most accessible to your audience. Planning is always the first step. You know it from other areas of living and working and it also works in case of public speaking. Remember about the opening and the closing. Think of ways how to engage your audience especially when having a longer presentation. Keep in mind that focus of listeners goes down after 15 to 20 minutes max.
Prepare and rehearse
For me preparation is the key.
Depending on a type of public performance, you may adjust the preparation accordingly. I usually practice short speeches aloud, testing the sound of my voice and the effect I want to achieve by saying particular things. It is not insane. I mean even Madonna rehearses before performing live.
For longer presentation, at least know a sequence of what you plan to say.
That will help you getting familiar with what is ahead of you. Imagine the place, the audience. Visualize how you will feel getting on stage, starting your speech and visualize the reaction you will get from the public. At first the visualization itself can put you in a panic mood. And that is good as you can cope with your fear before. I was once taught by a professional speaker to rehearse in front of a set of items that I would visualize to be the audience. It was quite astonishing when I got frozen in front of my daughter’s teddy bears. Still it made me realize the power of brain and how we see things.
As such visualization is definitely a powerful and helpful technic. Believe that you can do it and believe that it is going to be a success. Even if it will be the success just for yourself.
Await it as an excitement
The stage is yours.
It can be tough, however it is helpful if you convert your anxiety in an excitement. Either your brain can activate you to do something or it may block you from doing it. Fear stops you, excitement makes you go.
As Adam Grant puts it, instead of trying hard to relax by saying “I’m calm”, say I’m excited. We can’t switch off anxiety or at least it is a very long process. Instead, it is easier to convert one strong emotion, which is fear, into another one, which is excitement.
Breath and smile.
First thing you want to do in front of your audience is smile. It is natural reaction that people will smile back and that already puts you in a calmer zone. Remember to smile as you present as well. It will help you connect to your audience. Watching your breath will provide oxygen and help you relax. Breath in, breath out and you will be fine.