Be honest… how comfortable are you with public speaking?
Don’t worry – you’re not alone. 74% of adults experience some form of public speaking anxiety, which makes it the most claimed fear – over spiders and death.
I’m guessing if you’re reading this you’re seeking ways to build your skills and therefore, your confidence as a public speaker. Which is good news because confident speakers demonstrate more passion, provide more insight, and use more inclusive language. Why? Because they aren’t distracted by their internal anxieties.
So how do you build confidence and effectiveness?
I have three guidelines for public speaking.
Be Effective. Be Bold. Be Brief.
Here’s what that means.
- Know Your Audience: Before putting together a presentation, you need to identify the audience. Are they familiar with your business? Do they need a lot of details/education/coaching? Are they familiar enough to know acronyms? How much context do they need? Your content and language will change based on who will be receiving your message.
- Define Your Takeaways: Know exactly what you want the audience to take away from your presentation. Narrow it down two to three key points and ensure the content comes back to those snippets of information. Bonus points if you add a “Key Takeaways” slide to the end of the presentation!
- Know Your Content: Want to build confidence quickly? Know your content. Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.” Your presentation doesn’t have to be “simple”, but you won’t struggle through a speech if you know what you intend to deliver. You may not say it exactly the way you planned, but by knowing the content and takeaways, you will send the audience away with what they need.
- Connect, then Inform: Have you ever had a speaker who just launched right into the content and you’re like, “Who are you? Why should I care?” Yeah. That’s because the speaker didn’t take a brief moment to connect with you. Take a few moments to introduce yourself and your credentials. Tell a story, share some interesting data. Something to draw the audience in and set the stage.
- Own the Floor: This seems to be the hardest part for most speakers. Own. The. Floor. You are the speaker and therefore, at this moment, you are the expert. There will always be someone in the room who knows more than you about select topics, but you’re the one with the microphone. Of course, don’t take this confidence too far. Always be humble when interacting with the audience and fielding questions.
- Show Emotion: Smile, laugh, show enthusiasm. Nothing loses an audience faster than giving the impression you don’t care about the subject matter.
- Powerful Body Language: Stand tall and move around a little. (A little – not a lot.) Pay attention to how you use your hands, which by the way, you should be using to punctuate important points. Not sure how your body language looks? Record yourself speaking and watch it later with the sound off. Do you look like an expert?
- Effective Voice: For everyone’s sake, please do not speak in a monotone, robotic voice. Use inflection. Highlight key phrases. Use dramatic pauses. If you’re asking a question, we should know it’s a question. Much like showing emotion, you will lose an audience very quickly if you aren’t varying your vocal tone.
- One Slide for Every Two Minutes: Death by Powerpoint is real. A general guideline for presentations is one slide for every two minutes of content. However…
- More Images, Less Words: Don’t load up slides with a bunch of facts, figures, text. People should be engaged with you speaking, not reading slides. Also, the slides should not be a crutch. If you find yourself loading information onto a slide so you don’t forget, make a notes sheet and practice, practice, practice!
More than anything, public speaking takes practice. Don’t shy away from doing presentations, informal or formal, and actively solicit feedback from your audience.
I like to select one attendee to give me specific feedback on things I’m looking to improve. Did I move around too much? Did I overuse any words? Did I come across as the subject expert? Did I talk too fast? Giving them a list of habits I’m aware of takes the edge off giving the feedback. When my presentation is done, we can cut right the chase. How did I do?
Take these tips and start slowly implementing them. I don’t recommend going for gold from the get-go. Public speaking is truly a skill honed over time. But stick with it, and I guarantee you, you’ll get more comfortable and confident.