CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – SEPTEMBER 21, 2021
Becoming a Confident, Compelling Speaker (PT.4)
There’s a good reason that we say, “Practice makes perfect!” You simply cannot be a confident, compelling speaker without practice.
To get practice, seek opportunities to speak in front of others. For example, Toastmasters is a club geared specifically towards aspiring speakers, and you can get plenty of practice at Toastmasters sessions. You could also put yourself in situations that require public speaking, such as by cross-training a group from another department, or by volunteering to speak at team meetings.
If you’re going to be delivering a presentation or prepared speech, create it as early as possible. The earlier you put it together, the more time you’ll have to practice.
Practice it plenty of times alone, using the resources you’ll rely on at the event, and, as you practice, tweak your words until they flow smoothly and easily.
Then, if appropriate, do a dummy run in front of a small audience: this will help you calm your jitters and make you feel more comfortable with the material. Your audience can also give you useful feedback , both on your material and on your performance.
Cope With Nerves
How often have you listened to or watched a speaker who really messed up? Chances are, the answer is “not very often.”
When we have to speak in front of others, we can envision terrible things happening. We imagine forgetting every point we want to make, passing out from our nervousness, or doing so horribly that we’ll lose our job. But those things almost never come to pass! We build them up in our minds and end up more nervous than we need to be.
Many people cite speaking to an audience as their biggest fear, and a fear of failure is often at the root of this. Public speaking can lead your “fight or flight” response to kick in: adrenaline courses through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases, you sweat, and your breath becomes fast and shallow.
Although these symptoms can be annoying or even debilitating, the Inverted-U Model shows that a certain amount of pressure enhances performance. By changing your mindset, you can use nervous energy to your advantage.
First, make an effort to stop thinking about yourself, your nervousness, and your fear. Instead, focus on your audience: what you’re saying is “about them.” Remember that you’re trying to help or educate them in some way, and your message is more important than your fear. Concentrate on the audience’s wants and needs, instead of your own.
If time allows, use deep breathing exercises to slow your heart rate and give your body the oxygen it needs to perform. This is especially important right before you speak. Take deep breaths from your belly, hold each one for several seconds, and let it out slowly.
Crowds are more intimidating than individuals, so think of your speech as a conversation that you’re having with one person. Although your audience may be 100 people, focus on one friendly face at a time, and talk to that person as if he or she is the only one in the room.
Watch Recordings of Your Speeches
Whenever possible, record your presentations and speeches. You can improve your speaking skills dramatically by watching yourself later, and then working on improving in areas that didn’t go well.
As you watch, notice any verbal stalls, such as “um” or “like.” Look at your body language: are you swaying, leaning on the podium, or leaning heavily on one leg? Are you looking at the audience? Did you smile? Did you speak clearly at all times?
Pay attention to your gestures. Do they appear natural or forced? Make sure that people can see them, especially if you’re standing behind a podium.
Last, look at how you handled interruptions, such as a sneeze or a question that you weren’t prepared for. Does your face show surprise, hesitation, or annoyance? If so, practice managing interruptions like these smoothly, so that you’re even better next time.