I love pubic speaking (just in case you hadn’t figured that out already).
I’d say it’s been in my blood from when I was just a twinkle in my Dad’s eye. In fact, if you asked me if there was one thing I could do for the rest of my business life it would be public speaking.
But I know that isn’t the truth for most people….most people don’t like it. In fact a recent study confirmed that most people still fear public speaking more than death!
Through the work I do, inevitably I get asked by people “How can I improve my public speaking skills?”
Here is what I share with them and it might not be what you’d expect….
#1 Give yourself an A
One of the key reasons why people fear public speaking is because they are worried about what people will think of them, whether their audience will agree with what they say or if they will be liked.
If that little voice in your head is preoccupied with those kind of questions, you will never truly be in full flow and you’ll be constantly second guessing what you are doing.
Instead, learn to give yourself an A.
Start from the position that you’ve already got yourself a standing ovation, you’ve scored top marks on the feedback sheets and you’ve nailed your speech. This will allow you to be fully present with your audience and begin to adopt ‘one buttock’ playing as Benjamin Zander calls it.
There is however, one key condition. In order to be awarded that A you have to make a commitment to yourself to do everything you can to be deserving of that grade. For example that means practicing your content, researching information and rehearsing your delivery – not just rocking up, winging it and saying that ‘you’re speaking from the heart’
You’ll actually speak more from the heart when you start from having given yourself an A.
#2 Get over yourself. It’s not about you, its about them.
Tell your ego “Walk out the door, I don’t need you any more” in a Gloria Gaynor stylee.
Being great at public speaking means realising that it is not about you, it’s about them. By that I mean you have to quickly understand that public speaking, like leadership, is actually about serving your people. It’s about being ‘customer centric’ and putting yourself in the shoes of the people you are speaking to and focusing on how you can best fulfil their needs.
Ask yourself something along the lines of ‘What is it that they need most right now that would give them incredible value?’
Speaking is not about showing off to the audience as to how good you are, how much you know or how brilliantly you are doing.
No, it’s about putting them before you.
#3 Begin With The End In Mind.
Steve Jobs once said “You can only connect the dots looking at them backwards.”
When putting your presentation together, always begin with where you want to end up and then connect the ‘dots’ backwards to develop your content.
Too often people start with what they want to say or their message and then get stuck as to where they go with it.
When designing your presentation start with questions like “What action do I want the audience to take? How do I want them to feel? What do I want to have them do as result of hearing what I have to say?”
Once you are clear on the outcome you can start to construct your content in a sequence which will take your audience to where you want them to be.
I was once given great advice “People will remember the last thing you say, so make sure it’s compelling”
#4 Make a point, then tell a story.
As a kid, one of my favourite times was when my Grandma used to sit me down and tells me stories. She seemed to have an endless library and they stuck in my mind. What I realise now is that each story she told me had a key lesson or point of learning and had it not been told to me in the form of a story, I probably wouldn’t have paid as much attention.
There is a reason why so much of what we learn as children is through stories. It is because they connect with at an emotive level and when we are emotionally engaged with something or someone that we will are more likely to change, be influenced or become committed to something.
The primary objective of speaking is to inspire someone to move from where they are to where they want to be and one of the most effective ways to do that is through telling stories.
Each of your key points should be backed up with a relevant story which amplifies the key learning.
#5 Say it, don’t read it.
Have you ever been in a presentation when you have drifted off or entered a deep hypnotic state?
Worse still, have you sat through a presentation when the presenter is reading straight off their slides, leaving you about as excited as kid on their first visit to the dentist?
Please don’t be that speaker.
When you are speaking think of it as a conversation. When you speak to your friends you wouldn’t do it in a mono tone voice would you? Of course not, you would use your voice in different ways to convey how you felt.
Speaking to an audience is not different.
Think of your speech as melody with changes in pace, tone and pitch (unless you really are trying to hypnotise your audience). Speeding up brings about excitement and anticipation whereas slowing down brings people in towards an important point.
Varying your pace will help keep your audience engage and ensure you don’t send them to sleep.
#6 Pause for thought.
Human beings are really uncomfortable with silence. When there is a quiet spot in any conversation, we just feel compelled to fill it.
This is true even in our minds. Don’t believe me?
Try sitting in silence for 60 seconds. You might be ok saying nothing on the outside but I bet the little voice in your head is itching to say something.
Pauses are like a secret weapon in public speaking. When used in the right way they can really make something sound profound or thought provoking. For example, when you ask an important question leave a pause so your audience can process what you have just said and really consider what you are asking.
Top politicians use pauses really well to ensure they hammer home their points.
#Final, bonus tip……Slow Down.
Like a good Marvin Gaye record on a hot date, slow things down.
Often we can end up speaking to fast, particularly if we are over excited or nervous and that means it’s difficult for your audience to keep up.
You have great content and import information to share so you have a duty to ensure it lands well, therefore you must learn to just relax and breathe.
If you apply these tips I guarantee that you will improve the quality of your presentations, talks and speeches.
Go ahead and give them a whirl and if you need any further help on speaking eMail Me