From time to time we all have to stand up in front of a group of people to speak. Whether it is an informal thank you to family and friends or a more official speech for business, it is entirely natural to be nervous and apprehensive.
Believe it or not, nerves are good for us. They keep us ‘on our toes’ and prevent us from becoming complacent. Even the most experienced speaker feels some anxiety before speaking in public. If they don’t they probably won’t be a terribly interesting as a speaker, we are after all, only human.
The following public speaking tips are based upon lessons I have learned (and mistakes I have made) during my public speaking experiences AND from observing many different presentation styles.
Let’s assume you know your audience and what is expected of you, let’s assume you know (at least in part) what you want to say and let’s assume you feeling just a tad nervous…
Try to adopt some of the following performance tips next time you stand up in front of a room full of expectant faces. They might just help.
1. Don’t Speak, Talk
Be yourself, don’t try to be as good as or as funny as another speaker. This will distract you. Simply focus on being true to yourself. Speak naturally, don’t try to lose your accent if you have one. Forget your ‘telephone voice. Save that for when you are speaking on the telephone…oh, and remember to breathe
2. Dress Code
There is an unwritten rule that, when invited to speak to a group, you should aim to be at least as smart as the smartest person in the room. Speaking to a room full of young students in jeans might not require you to wear a business suit but, speaking at business conference would. Feeling comfortable in this way will enhance your performance and enable you to ‘own the room’.
3. Don’t Tell Jokes
Jokes aren’t funny. Really, they aren’t. If you use them you run the risk of alienating members of your audience. That’s not to say that humour doesn’t play a part in any presentation, in fact, it is key. Use anecdotes or the odd funny aside to punctuate and provide breaks in your delivery.
4. It’s Theatre Dahling…
No matter what the occasion, we can always use a little theatre. Believe it or not, even when reading at a funeral, theatre is called for. Theatre does not equate to ‘razzmatazz’, far from it. Theatre, in public speaking relates to voice projection, eye contact and pitch of your voice. Whatever the occasion, choose a ‘character’ to fall back on and work that room.
5. Listening styles
And finally, remember that each member of your audience will have their own preferred listening style. Whether they are VISUAL (absorb information by what they see), AUDITORY (absorb information from what they hear) OR KINESTHETIC (absorb information by what they do), they will all be absorbing what you are say in the following proportions;
7% of what you say (words). 38% of how you say it (pitch, pace, tone) and 55% through your body language (eye contact, gestures, stage presence).