I was 9 years old the first time I stood in front of an audience and although my knees were shaking, I still managed to get through an entire song by Madonna! It was the start of a life of performing at numerous events, including a major concert for an audience of 60,000 people a couple of years ago – a time when I almost fainted!
As far as the corporate side of my public speaking went, I was live on the radio at the age of 17, gave my first official presentation at the age of 24 and sat on my first press conference panel when I was 25. One would expect that performing and speaking in front of an audience would get easier as time went by and the more I did it, but the truth is, it doesn’t work quite that way. Nerves still play a major part in the proceedings even 30 years later. What does get better, though, is the ability to manage my fears and to generate more confidence on stage. Here are ten of the most essential tips relating to public speaking I have learned along the way.
1. It’s ok to be nervous
Give up the belief that you have to be perfect. Some of the most famous speakers and celebrities in the world get nervous before they perform or speak. It is absolutely normal.
2. Tap into your strengths
Remember and recount your qualities, review your qualifications; those that earned you that speaking spot to begin with. If you weren’t interesting, you would not have been asked to speak in the first place.
3. Knowledge is power
Build up your knowledge and information about the topic you are going to be speaking about. The more insight you have into the matter and the better you know your material, the more confident and comfortable you will be in speaking about it.
4. Know your audience
Customise your speech to make it interesting to your specific target audience and make sure you use the right approach. If your audience is composed of senior executives, then cut to the chase. On the other hand, if you are addressing college students, a more elaborative approach is needed and one that touches on the points you share.
5. Mark your territory
Visit the venue you will be speaking in beforehand to get a feel for the space, even if it is only an hour before the event. Test the acoustics and listen to yourself through the sound system. On the day of your speech, be on-site early to allow any jitters to subside.
This is perhaps the biggest indicator of nervousness. Breathing can also make speaking very challenging if not done effectively. You can use a variety of relaxation exercises to assist your inhalation and exhalation technique, which will improve your delivery. These include stretching, meditation and deep breathing through your diaphragm.
Go through your speech notes prior to your big day by speaking loudly in front of a mirror, or someone you feel comfortable with. Whatever you do, do NOT read your speech word-for-word, but instead remember your points by association. Develop speech notes that trigger your thought processes. Using speaking points to get your issue across rather than regurgitating an entire speech verbatim may seem difficult, but it’s actually more liberating than you think.
8. Fake it till you make it
Confidence can take you a long way, and so can fake confidence! Even if you don’t quite feel it – YET – your posture, breathing and knowledge of your subject matter can reflect more confidence than you can possibly imagine. Look confident and eventually, you will become it.
9. Don’t worry about missing a line
Don’t sweat it if you miss a point here or there, at the end of the day the only person who knows what is on that sheet of paper in front of you is you. No one in the audience has a clue, so just focus on the overall message you came to share and how it will impact or change the lives of the people listening to you.
10. Focus on friendly faces in the crowd
There are always several happy faces that you can gain strength from, so avoid the cynical faces and look for big comforting smiles. Make sure you look around the entire room giving every corner its equal share of your attention.
Eventually with practice, you will learn to manage the stress associated with public speaking, but most importantly, you will transform yourself into the individually unique presenter that you are. At the end of it all, people remember will what you stood for and how much passion you showed – something that will inspire the people you address.
Anything you would add?