Fear of public speaking is on the same list as fear of spiders and even death. We are all at least a little afraid to speak in front of a group of people. Whether it’s in a board meeting with your peers or on a stage in front of strangers, the fear is the same. But resisting public speaking engagements can hold an entrepreneur back since workshops, presentations, and pitches are a great way to network and gain support. With this in mind, here are some ways to improve your public speaking skills to get you out of your shell and into the spotlight.
1. Begin with the End in Mind
Like everything in business, you need to have your plan. Before you start working on your presentation, know your purpose. A great way to figure this out if you are struggling to articulate your main points is to ask yourself some focus questions. Such as:
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- What impact do you want to have on your audience?
- Are you looking to inform? Inspire? Persuade?
Knowing your ultimate purpose and the desired outcome will help you stay focused on the preparation process.
2. Simplify Your Message
You are probably where you are today because of the depth of knowledge in your field of expertise. With all the information you have floating around in your brain, it is difficult to know where to start. Your impulse might be to impart as much of your knowledge as you can to your audience. However, don’t do this! You will overwhelm or bore your audience with unneeded details. Plus, you will lose sight of your focus points. Convey a few powerful ideas that your audience will remember. Simplify your message to include only the information you want your listeners to walk away with.
3. Prepare and Practice
Practice makes perfect is a popular saying for a reason. It works!
Don’t just wing your presentation. Have a clear roadmap of what you are going to say and rehearse it. It also helps to practice speaking in front of another person. Whether it be your spouse, partner or co-worker, get comfortable with speaking your points out loud onto listening ears. They might be able to give you feedback on something that you may have missed practicing alone. Preparation will also allow you to avoid the nervousness associated with being not quite ready.
4. Memorize Concepts, Not Content
While you are preparing and practicing, a helpful tip is to memorize your concepts, not your content. If you have a lot of information you wish to convey to your audience, you might feel overwhelmed when it’s time to starting memorizing. Memorization can lead to sounding over-rehearsed and unnatural. Plus if you forget something, you are left in an awkward silence.
Instead, create bullet points of the content, stories, data and key takeaways that you want to get across in each part of your presentation. Then you will be able to speak naturally about them and give a more flexible presentation, which in turn will be engaging for your listeners.
5. Connect with the Audience
Your speaking engagement will be far more effective if it’s tailored to your specific audience. Spend time learning as much as possible about attendees and gear your speech accordingly. Remember you are on the podium for a reason. You are there to inform, not prove that you are smarter than everyone. By trying to impress your audience with your intellect, you create more distance and could come across as arrogant.The more connected the audience feels to you, the more they’ll pay attention to what you have to say.
6. Body Language
90% or more of communication is nonverbal. Your audience will read your facial expressions, the tone of your voice, the way you use your hands, how you stand and move. A warm, easy smile and calm body immediately tell the audience that you’re comfortable and confident. Pent-up energy can be the death of a powerful speech. If it helps, roam the front of the room or the stage to expend some of that energy. And when the speaker is comfortable, the audience is, too. This is also true is you aren’t comfortable! Practice your speech in front of the mirror and critic what your body language is emulating to others.
7. Let Your Passion Show
Passion is infectious and contagious. Your enthusiasm will also keep your audience engaged. People like seeing passion radiate from someone. It is inspiring and entertaining to watch. If you are truly passionate about what you are speaking about, don’t be afraid to show it. Keep your personality throughout your speech and your listeners will feel a connection to your words.