It’s too late to walk away now. They called your name, your presentation is on and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is there, and all eyes are on you. They are all waiting to hear your wisdom and all you want to do is run away or hide (too bad teleportation is still not an option).
Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there at some point. The thing is, you can change the way you see and experience public speaking. Here are some tips from my own experience that may be able to help.
BE EXCITED, NOT NERVOUS
Public speaking can be scary. Sometimes, you’ll be standing in front of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. When the room gets quiet, you know it’s a moment to shine. Buuut, it’s not always easy to do that. Honestly, it’s never easy to do that. I’ve been speaking in public for many years and every single time it’s my turn to speak, I feel these butterflies in my stomach. The thing is, it was MY decision to call them butterflies because that means I’m excited. If I’m about to speak in front of many people, I’d rather be excited than nervous.
You might say, it’s the same thing, just a different word, but then it’s not the same thing, is it? According to Marisa Peer, our brain does what we tell it to do. So, if you tell your brain that you’re nervous, you’ll feel nervous: your hands may start sweating, your voice may start shaking. On the other hand, if you tell your brain that you’re excited, you’ll feel more confident and positive about the whole experience because your brain will guide you towards excitement and the feeling of joy.
UNDERSTAND YOUR TOPIC
This may sound as stating the obvious, but I’ve seen many people get in front of others and not know what they are talking about. I’m not saying you should know everything about your topic, that would be an unrealistic expectation, but you should know what you’re talking about in some detail at least. Take your time to go through various resources, read both theories that support and oppose your topic because it’ll give you a broader understanding of what you’re about to share with others. Once you get enough info, choose to share the information you’re the most comfortable with. That way, you’ll know you’ve got it covered and you’ll know you’ve prepared yourself well enough.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
When choosing what to share, in addition to you being comfortable with the information, make sure you know who you are speaking to. Depending on who your audience is, you’ll structure your presentation differently. What is more, knowing your audience will help you choose what information to share and how detailed you’d want to be when speaking. For example, if your audience has very little understanding of the topic, you’d want to give a bit more background, explain the basics before you dive deeper. On the other hand, if your audience is mostly experts in the field or people who know a lot about the topic, you’d want to avoid the basics and get right into the deep stuff.
PRACTICE SPEAKING, NOT RECITING
No matter how experienced you are in public speaking or how good your memory is, you DO NOT want to memorize your speech. There are so many things that can happen during a presentation, starting with the one as simple as asking a question, that can throw you off balance. If you’ve memorized it and someone interrupts you, you could lose track of your speech, which will make you nervous and then you’ll start panicking.
Now, you may say this is not true because you’ve done it that way so many times and if that’s the case, good for you. From my experience, it is best to know what you want to say and practice how you want to say it in different ways. Public speaking is still speaking, not reciting, and when we speak, we tend to say things differently every time we say them. We do keep the point the same (so what we say stays the same), but the manner changes, that’s to say, how we say it. Allowing yourself this flexibility will take a lot of pressure off and you’ll feel a lot more confident and comfortable when you speak.
VISUALIZE THE IDEAL SITUATION
As I mentioned earlier, our brain does what we tell it to do. That means that if you imagine the best case scenario, your brain will start working towards it. This doesn’t mean that visualizing the best case scenario will guarantee the real life situation will indeed be spotless, but it’ll help you relax and feel more confident. As Dr. Susan Biali Haas says:
Convince your brain of your capacity for top performance, by imagining that perfect speech or conversation. It increases the probability that things will go well. Athletes have used this technique for decades.
And we all know how successful some athletes are 🙂
To sum up, public speaking is after all a skill and as any skill, it can be learned and improved. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. What I’d like to point out here is that the majority of public speaking is about you: the way you feel about it, the way you see it and experience it. Simply by working on yourself, you can improve your public speaking as well. It goes without saying that this applies to many other skills we develop in life as well.
If you find this article useful, feel free to share it with other who may need to work on their public speaking skills, too. Remember, sharing is caring 🙂
Until our next time, keep learning and growing.
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