Speak in Front of Others Like a Pro
A Note From The Editor
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Leaders often face the task of speaking to large audiences. Over the years, though, I’ve witnessed even the most successful and confident entrepreneurs and managers cowering at the thought of public speaking.
When fear gets in the way of communicating to a large audience, however, important messages go missed and business can suffer. If you're one who tries to avoid the public-speaking spotlight, try these 10 steps to deliver a speech the crowd will remember:
Repetitively practicing the speech material aloud instills and expands confidence. With each practice round, the fear of forgetting lines or exceeding a time limit eases. This step may seem like a no-brainer, but many speakers find themselves unprepared when they let overconfidence keep them from rehearsing.
Prop up your smartphone, push record video and practice your delivery. From body movement and hand gestures to facial expressions and timing, these factors figure into the success of a presentation. Repeat your performance until you like what you see.
3. Err on the side of brevity.
It’s always better to leave an audience wanting more than to let a speech drag on. Besides, it’s not uncommon for meetings to start later than planned or for an earlier speaker to talk longer than expected. Be prepared for these scenarios and know which messages to focus on and which to cut short.
4. Never let people see you sweat.
You've heard speakers attempt to lighten the mood and remove pressure by confessing their fear of public speaking. What does this accomplish other than sparking audience interest in noticing someone's nervous habits? If you’re dreading delivering a speech, keep it to yourself and put on a confident face.
5. Realize everyone gets nervous.
Comedian Garry Shandling said, “Everyone at the party is uncomfortable. Knowing that makes me more comfortable.”
Realize that being uneasy in front of a crowd is only natural. Being a great speaker isn’t about not being nervous. It's about using the nervous energy to your advantage to deliver an energetic message.
6. It’s not about you.
If you’re asked to speak, someone thinks you’re worth listening to. You have a message that this individual believes the audience should hear. Stay focused on your message and the audience, and you’ll find that your focus on the spotlight fades.
7. Don’t memorize the entire speech, but don’t read it either.
You’re not reciting Shakespeare, so don’t worry about delivering a perfect script. If you memorize or read your speech word for word, though, you lose opportunities for the conversational elements that can make the difference between a mediocre performance and a stellar one.
Finding a middle ground between scripted and off-the-cuff material will ease performance anxiety and make for a more captivating listen.
8. Tell stories.
Great speakers are great storytellers. Stories not only help illustrate important points but also help make a speech more entertaining and memorable. Some people retain information when it’s presented as a story. Think about the wise tales passed down for generations as opposed to having to memorize hard facts or numbers. Easier recall for a speaker means a more confident delivery.
9. Own your mistakes.
Remember when actress Jennifer Lawrence tripped on her way to accept her Oscar? Accidents like this happen, even to consummate professionals. The solution: Just go with it.
Lawrence laughed it off, while still delivering a memorable acceptance speech. Don’t be afraid to laugh with your audience at a mistake you make and then move on.
10. Don’t try too hard.
If you’re concerned that your nerves might get the best of you, try to limit room for error. All too often a rookie speaker fails because he or she tried too hard, often with an elaborate slide show or hard-to-wield stage prop.
Only seasoned speakers should aim for advanced stage presentations. Rookies should minimize possible mishaps by sticking to the basics.