Enjoy Public Speaking!
Whether you are presenting to a large audience, your team, a prospective client or an investor, many of us experience speaking in public in our everyday lives. Public speaking is a Personal Branding channel as it allows us to communicate our Personal Brand to our audience. Our Personal Brand is who we are, what we do, why we do it and who we do it for. It’s what makes us authentic and unique.
When presenting, great content is essential to success, but it’s how you deliver your speech that is going to be remembered. Maya Angelou’s quote 'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, they will never forget what you made them feel' applies to many forms of human communication and especially to public speaking.
Although public speaking is a great way to promote your Personal Brand in addition to your message, statistics tell us that 74% of the population experience public speaking anxiety. Typically we are afraid of judgment, in other words of what people think of us. This can lead to comparison with others, to feeling embarrassed or not feeling good enough. Behind this fear there’s often a belief that being good at public speaking is an innate talent, therefore either you have it or you don’t.
Public speaking is a talent that some people have, but it is also a skill that you can acquire! To that end, today I’d like to share with you 10 key points that can help you challenge the previously mentioned belief.
1. Know your content. When you know exactly what you are talking about, you are more confident in your speech. Additionally, it's easier for you to answer questions and even improvise if necessary. If your content is not clear and doesn't really make sense to you, your speech will most likely feel as acting rather than delivering a message.
2. Be organised. If you use slides, make sure they are tidy, clear and to the point. Your slides should be a guideline not a transcript of your speech. If you use notes to prepare or support your speech, organise those too. Divide them by sections, highlight the important parts, use keywords for each section. Last but not least, be structured, have an agenda with an engaging opening and a powerful ending.
3. Know your audience. Take the time to find out and understand who your audience is. Evaluate what might work or not. This can include references, body language, jokes, type of visuals and audio. If public speaking is outside a context that is already familiar to you, arriving early is a great way to speak to people and connect with them beforehand. This will put you more at ease once on stage, giving you the feeling of a conversation with people you already know.
4. Turn it into a story. People love stories because they engage, create emotions, resonate and make content more human. This is especially true for content that mainly consists of numerical figures. Start with a small story, give real examples, add visual and audio, ask questions to involve your audience. By doing so, you will make it more interesting, interactive and easier to remember.
5. Be YOU. Everyone is different and public speakers are no exception. While it’s great to sharpen your presentation skills as well as be inspired by great public speakers, remember that authenticity is what people ultimately appreciate and value.
6. Think positively. Watch out for the negative thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking ‘I’m not a good public speaker’, stop and turn it around. Repeat positive internal affirmations including gratitude, such as ‘it’s going to be a success’ or ‘I’m grateful to be here today’ to energise and encourage yourself.
7. Focus on your audience, not your performance. When you shift your attention from yourself to your audience, you stop focusing on your performance and start thinking about how you can deliver value and serve those that are listening to you.
8. Mind your posture and breathing. Good posture, straight yet relaxed, has a direct impact on your overall being in that moment and consequently on how you connect with your audience. Once in a good posture, allow yourself to pause, breathe, find a good pace in your speaking. Too fast will make it difficult for people to assimilate the content, too slow will make it easy for them to reach their smart phone!
9. Smile. Unless your speech is about something sad, don’t forget to smile. Smiling has a direct effect on your thoughts, feelings and has the power of creating an immediate connection with people.
10. Practise, practise, practise. There really is no better way to prepare and improve your public speaking skills. Practising in front of a mirror and recording your speech are great ways to get comfortable with yourself. The more comfortable you feel, the less you will focus on what others may think of you and you will put all your energy in delivering a great speech.
If you follow these steps consistently, I believe you won’t only go from nervous to relaxed and from hesitant to confident, but you will actually start to enjoy public speaking! (or at the very least you will become a more courageous story teller). Public speaking is truly a great way to communicate and develop your Personal Brand by gaining visibility and building a reputation that is true to who you are, connects with your audience and opens the door to new opportunities.