Is there a great speaker hiding in you?
“Not hardly,” you may be thinking. Think again.
The fear of speaking in public is well-documented, often discussed, and probably overrated. The great news is that speaking in front of a group can be an entertaining and energizing experience for even the most fearsome among us.
Try these 10 ideas to enjoy speaking and to sharpen your delivery:
1. Be yourself! Every person is inherently charming and interesting, especially when we feel confident. The only trouble is that we don’t always let the good stuff come out! Let your natural personality come out, and you’ll be terrific. Enjoy what you’re speaking on, and the audience will love you. Often, the more you try to sound impressive, the more you come off sounding insincere.
2. Give yourself permission to feel nervous. Don’t concentrate on your nerves. Even the most seasoned, experienced presenter can get nervous. There’s no shame in feeling a little scared. But here’s a common mistake: Many people, when they begin speaking, start to focus on how nervous they feel. They worry about their hands shaking, and they notice their voice quivering — which, not surprisingly, makes them feel more nervous! Instead, realize that it’s OK to feel a little nervous for the first minute or two, and concentrate instead on serving the audience.
3. Forget about yourself. Stop worrying about your hair being perfect or your voice sounding odd and start concentrating on serving the audience. Focus on delivering value to the audience. Think about accomplishing your objectives for the talk. The truth is, most people overestimate how much the audience focuses on the speaker’s abilities. All most audiences want is good information that’s not boring.
4. Learn from the greats. Get copies of speeches you really enjoy, and read them to “prime the pump” as you prepare for the speech. Invest a couple of minutes reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and you’ll find it tough not to be charged up to deliver the best speech of your life.
5. Nail your first few sentences. There’s no question that the first minute or so is the most nerve-racking. Practice your first sentences over and over until you have them nailed! The more comfortable you feel with the first words out of your mouth, the sooner you’ll stop feeling nervous.
6. Act like you’re comfortable. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” as the old saying goes. Pretend that you’re an accomplished, confident presenter. Think about what a seasoned speaker thinks about when they’re ready to speak: “This is gong to be great”; “I can’t wait to get started”; “I know my information can help the audience”; “All I have to do is my best.”
7. Practice, practice, practice. Abraham Lincoln, a true master of self-improvement, was committed to becoming an outstanding speaker. He carried slips of paper in his hat, and while walking to work, he pulled the slips out and read them aloud to practice. Nothing will skyrocket your confidence as much as practice and preparation.
8. Work on speaking distinctly. To help you sharpen your pronunciation, read aloud from Shakespeare, from the King James Version of the Bible, or from any other work that has beautiful, lyrical writing.
9. Be grateful for your nerves. A little bit of nervousness is a sign that your adrenaline is up and running and your body knows you’re about to do something interesting. That adrenaline can help you stay excited and energetic. So remember, your nerves are your friends. Just don’t let them run the whole show.
10. You’re the expert! Being asked to present on a topic is a pretty strong sign that you know more about it than the audience does. It’s possible you may get stumped now and then, but overall, you have the advantage of knowing more about your subject than anyone else in the room.