For some people, just the thought of public speaking makes them feel anxious and uncomfortable straight away. Blushing, shortness of breath, sweaty hands, weak legs… if you or anyone you know recognizes these symptoms, do not despair. This can be solved more easily and quickly than you ever thought!
While some people may be born with a natural talent, or have successfully developed a talent throughout life, the art of public speaking requires a set of skills that can be learnt, just like many other things in life.
These are some of the things you can start to do more if you really want to become a great speaker, and feel at ease no matter what you are talking about, no matter where you are, or who you are with.
1/ Preparation: A lot of people spend hours preparing a presentation. They memorise facts, dates, figures… but they forget to prepare to deliver the presentation confidently and effectively. In order to do this, you need to imagine going through it in your mind in the right state. Imagine yourself confidently talking to your audience, feeling at ease and making them feel good too, answering questions effectively and dealing with the unexpected successfully.
What would you look like at your most confident?
What would you sound, talk and move like, at your most confident?
Answering these questions will allow you to get into the right mind frame now.
2/ Appearance: It’s important to dress for the occasion, and also to feel comfortable within yourself and in the clothes you are wearing. If squeezing yourself into a tight suit, or a tube skirt in which you can barely breathe doesn’t make you feel confident now, then you are not going to feel confident when you are speaking in front of an audience. Wear clothes that are appropriate and that are YOU, so you feel at ease and good about yourself.
3/ Stance: If you are standing in front of an audience adopt a split stance instead of facing them full on. You may have watched presenters or comedians doing this on TV. This makes you physically and emotionally more sturdy and stable. Instead of standing on one spot for the whole presentation, allow yourself to relax even more by using the space available. Work the room.
4/ Awareness: It’s important to be aware of your face and body movements and how they are affecting your audience. If you are talking to a small audience use small gestures, while if your audience is big use bigger gestures that let the audience know you acknowledge every single one of them. Keep eye contact with them, acknowledge different people at different stages. Interact with your audience by asking them questions, or asking them to ask you questions. This reflects confidence.
5/ Humour: So what if you make a mistake or two? What ‘s the worst thing that could happen? The most successful and persuasive speakers use humour to become more at ease and influence their audience. Because they know that when you make people feel good, they will like you more, they are not afraid of embarrassment or ridicule. If your audience laughs and has a good time, even if it’s at your expense, this is good thing!
6/ Voice: It’s important to become aware of your voice projection, intonation, rythm… and also become comfortable with silence. Successful speakers use silence strategically to evoque certain reactions in their public, such as laughter. These are skills that can be learned by modelling other successful speakers, or taking public speaking seminars. A good voice coach can teach you the secrets to a hypnotic voice.
7/ Feedback: A good speaker will assert their confidence by asking for feedback. If it’s good, great! If it isn’t, they will learn from their mistakes and do better next time.
You can become a great speaker as long as you want to. Be genuinely interested in your audience and realise that your aim is to create a win/win situation for them and you.
Practice these skills and notice how much more at ease you feel!