Most people rank public speaking as their number one fear. Let’s say you’ve just been hired into a new position that requires you to lead a group of people. In this era of electronic communication, more companies are placing a higher premium on face-to-face interaction.
When managers finally do get their people all together in one room, they expect to receive a compelling message. You can't just sit in front of a podium and be a talking head anymore.
You've got to deliver something meaningful.
But bear in mind that public speaking is actually a lot of top-heavy emphasis on style over substance, that is, because it is.
Many studies that indicate that, as long as you are not announcing a cure for cancer, more than 90 per cent of the impact of communication rests on how you look and sound, not on what you say.
“Being a poor speaker is the principal reason people don't make it into the executive ranks,'' said Alan Greenwald, a partner at T. Bresner & Associates, a Grandview company that helps executives hone their communications skills.
"Increasingly, CEOs and boards want their executives to be able to convey the company's message powerfully.'”
The good thing is, being comfortable speaking in public is something you can learn. People aren’t just born with it.
Here’s how you can become a better public speaker:
1. Tell a compelling story with only a few key messages
Whatever the topic is, you should be able to talk about it as you would tell a story. Tell your audience about an interesting encounter or a personal anecdote to kick things off.
That should help the story flow. It also humanizes you as a speaker, and allows people to remember your message.
Make sure to simplify your message. Think back to the hundreds of speeches that you’ve heard through your lifetime. Speeches that talk about the nitty gritty.
Instead, keep it simple. Keep it natural. Focus only on conveying a few powerful ideas that your audience will remember.
2. Write an outline, not a script
The best method is to write a basic outline of what you want to talk about, instead of writing what you will say word for word.
Doing this allows your speaking to be more natural as well as improve your eye contact with your audience, since you aren’t constantly looking down.
If you read from a script, you are more likely to lose your spot and look slightly incompetent.
When you're there:
3. Think of your posture
You aren’t expected to stand as straight as a soldier, but make sure your standing powerfully. Broad shoulders, wider stance and head held high.
4. Practise in front of someone you trust
The more you practise, the better you are at speaking publically. Make sure you present out loud to someone you are comfortable with.
They will give you honest feedback, from an outsiders perspective, which can be really helpful.
Tip: Try giving the speech to a variety of people.
First, someone outside of your field, to see if the context is clear enough for them to understand. Secondly to someone who is younger than you. Someone more junior, like a mentee, who you can unexpectedly learn from.
Thirdly, practise in front of someone who is in your industry and can give you more relevant and valuable feedback on your speech.
5. Speak up and avoid sameness in your tone
Speaking low may force people to listen harder, but it will make you sound boring. So talk at a volume where everyone can hear you.
Another one of the enemies of public speaking is if your stay on the same vocal rhythm, pitch, tone and gesture patterns throughout your presentation.
You will definitely get tuned out.
Make sure you have variety in your delivery and maintain your audiences interest.
6. Remember your body
Make sure you only gesture with one hand. Waving both looks fidgety and distracting; using just one looks natural and emphasizes a point.
You have to bear in mind that it’s a lot about how you look when you say. Your non-verbal communication. Your audience will read your facial expressions, the way you use your hand, how you stand and move.
Make sure you have a warm and easy smile, that reaches your eyes. That will calm both you and the audience when they smile back. If you are comfortable, then your audience will be comfortable.
7. Show your passion with your words
Authentic passion isn’t east to fake.
If you believe in what you say then your energy will translate to your audience.. Aim to transform the audience with your words.
Let them see the world the way you see it and get on board with your way of thinking. Above all else, be yourself up there.
8. Don’t talk too fast
The best speeches are the ones with comfortable pauses in them. It helps the audience think about the words you are saying to them. Here in Dubai, life moves fast, s too many of us talk too fast.
9. Find a focal point, but make it a person
Focus on one member of the audience to keep your eyes from darting around. But change to another person often, so you don't stare.
Unusual ways to tackle nerves:
Do some push ups. The physical exertion helps distract from the fear.
Remind yourself that you don’t look as idiotic as you think. Videotape yourself as part of a public speaking practise and you’ll see that your distress will not be visible on tape.
Instead of thinking about yourself or your speech, think about your audience. They are here to listen to you. They are humans just like you. Remembering that can help you to relax.
Speak up and stand up: you can't get promoted from a seated position