CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – FEBRUARY 4, 2021
Did you know that Warren Buffett used to be terrified of speaking in public? According to this story in Forbes magazine, he picked out his college courses based on whether he’d have to speak in front of the class, avoiding the ones where he knew he’d be forced to face his fear. He even dropped a public speaking course.
But then he decided he would have to overcome this fear to be in business. And that he did—becoming not only one of the world’s richest people but also a well-respected storyteller.
We can all do the same thing. A fear of public speaking is not just common; it is innate. Our ancestors had to be accepted into social groups in order to survive, instead of standing out and being alone (and then possibly being a predator’s dinner!). We have to acknowledge our fears; don’t try to pretend they’re not there! Instead, harness the jitters and refocus them by thinking of those nerves as positive energy and excitement. If we reframe anxiety as our desire to do our best, it can help us control those feelings.
Connect With Your Audience
Have you ever watched Bill Clinton speak? I recently talked with several people who have, and one thing rang true for them all: He can make connections! Clinton seems to have a way of making people feel like he is connected to them and who they are.
So the lesson here? Don’t talk to people, talk with people. Whether it’s 25 or 250 people, in your head, frame it as a conversation, not a speech. Think of the faces in front of you as your flock. Nurture them and your relationship with them. Make eye contact. Bring them along on the conversational journey.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
This is another homage to Bill Clinton. He smiles during positive points, gestures with his palms for added inflection, and furrows his brows during serious moments. When he is making a point, he uses his index finger to tap the podium in front of him.
This behavior is backed by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s TED talk and research, which shows that our body language can send just as big of a message as our words. Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA professor who has done extensive research on nonverbal communication, stated in a communication study that, in regards to liking a speaker, seven percent happens in spoken words, 38 percent happens through voice tone, and 55 percent happens through general body language.
This can be hard to focus on while you’re up in front of the masses, so sometimes I need some help. I write messages to myself in the margins to relax. Smile. Have fun. Think about what message my body is sending that I might not be aware of.
Tell a Story
Think about the elements and flow of a great story. What drew you in? What kept you reading or listening? Chip and Dan Heath mention this in the book Made to Stick. The same elements go into a great speech! Paint a picture with your words. When it comes to advocacy, this is especially important. Show the faces of your students and what affects them.
Connect With Your Emotions and Show Passion
Don’t be afraid to be human in front of an audience. There is something great about human connection that builds relationships, even from behind a podium. A great example of this is Rita Pierson, who emits her love and passion through every syllable in her speech “Every Kid Needs a Champion.”
Think of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Big message, 265 words. I think we sometimes think more is more, but the mantra “less is more” really stands true.