Public speaking is one of the top three most stressful things a human being can do. You feel as if your heart rate has risen 500 beats per minute as you look into a space of what you feel may be disapproving and judgmental faces. ‘ITS 30 SECONDS TO SHOW TIME’ shouts one of the stage guys from 3 meters away. That feeling starts to take over your whole body and soon you forget everything you were meant to say.
For some of us a mere presentation in front our peers or colleagues can be nerve-wracking enough, but what about those who speak to crowds of people every day? It doesn’t have to be so tough! Sit back, relax and let us guide you in 7 ways to becoming confident in public speaking!
1. First impressions count – Clothing has a language and is a key part of your message. It takes seven seconds to make a first impression. What you wear says something about you. Your introduction is paramount. Depending on where and whom you are performing to may also depend on your style choices. If it is for a conference you will most likely be expected to adhere to a smart dress code. If you’re talking to delegates within a more relaxed setting, dressing accordingly makes you more relatable and your audience will be more likely to listen with earnest and trust your expertise. If you are a Presenter, Keynote or After Dinner speaker, presenting yourself in front of VIP’s and celebrities will most likely mean you will be wearing more glamorous or very smart clothing. Present yourself how you wish to be percieved.
2. Stage presence – No use in beating around the bush! Let’s be honest when speaking at conferences it’s a pretty hard task. With that said however, don’t forget that those people watching and listening intently are more accustomed to sitting at their desks or being in busy a office all day. They will most likely be grateful for the respite so there is no harm in trying to be a little more casual and not too serious unless the event requires you to be so. This means it’s imperative to do your research beforehand. Use the stage. Walk as you speak, make direct eye contact with your audience so that they know you are speaking to them. Being on a a larger stage for example can swallow you up unless you know how to use it. If it helps, think of yourself as a performer in front of your adoring fans who need to see you using your stage to the max, because if not they won’t be able to see you dancing or watch your perform.
Here are a few more helpful tips which you can make a habit of practising until you become more confident in your stage presence:
- Do not obscure the screen if you’re using one
- Try not to look at the screen behind you too much or turn your back to the audience
- Be aware how you stand and where you move
- Do not constantly look down and read your presentation. If you know your stuff it should be easy to freestyle
- Ditch the negativity and bring on stage with you a positive energy
3. Body language – Strong body language is key. Be aware of your body before you start your speech. The more relaxed you feel, the more spontaneous you will present yourself. Your body language will give the same message. Don’t force yourself to change anything about your posture that requires you to actively think about it. Before you begin anchor yourself. A good tip is to try not clasp your hands together, put them in your pockets or cross your arms. Use your hands instead to gesture outwardly. This gives your audience a subliminal message that you’re open and have nothing to hide. Your mind should be busy with words and sentences, not your body language, so try to relax and do what you feel comes natural. The majority of people in any audience look for a genuine person. This is what your body language should be telling them.
Here are some more useful tips:
- Smile! You’ll come across friendly and most likely you will find your audience smiling right back at you
- Good posture. Adopt a neutral and open stance. This will also convey a sense of leadership and communicates confidence
- The bigger your audience, the bigger your gestures should be
- Be conscious of what you do with your hands
- Your body language should match your presence
4. Utilise your talents – Does your mind sometimes goes completely blank whenever someone asks you “what is your expertise?” or “which talents do you have?”? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us! However we all have a talent and we are all good at something in our own way. Think about what your talents are and practise speaking in front of a mirror. Learn to utilise your talents and relate to your audience. Ask them questions and get them involved. Make them part of your presentation. It will help everyone feel more inclusive, and also a great ice-breaker.
5. Make yourself heard – Project your voice! But try not to shout. Be loud enough for those at the back to hear you clearly. Be confident in what you’re saying. If you don’t believe what you say then no one else will. Variation of pitch adds colour to a voice. Pace your delivery. Move quickly through unimportant words and phrases and slow down vital ones.
6. Improvise – For example, if half way during your presentation your mind goes blank and you really can’t seem to remember what you need to say, IMPROVISE! Start talking about something else, or better yet, something that you were talking about earlier, as this can seem that you are elaborating further and that you really know your stuff. Always have something to say in your proverbial ‘back pocket’ should you flounder.
7. Follow the basic rules –
Connect with your audience. People respond positively when you are authentic. Don’t force yourself to be funny or over-the-top! There is nothing less funny than someone trying to be funny. It’s understandable that you may want to make the audience laugh and have a good time, however the way in which you may naturally say something or even an expression is enough to make people laugh organically. Never try to be funny, because it doesn’t usually work and it can make you nervous if your audience don’t react in the way you had intended. Just go with the flow and everything will be fine. Ensure you make a habit of warming up. This helps your mind and body to focus before your speak. Switch off your mobile and spend 5 or 10 minutes simply focusing on your breathing.
Here’s a recap:
- Research your audience
- Dress accordingly
- Warm up beforehand and focus on your breathing
Connect with your audience
- Know your material
- Be aware of body language
- Tell a story
- Vary you vocal, pace and tone
- Start strong and end stronger
Believe in yourself and go out there and nail it!
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