Statistically, you fear this, more than actually dying. That said, there will come a time in your career when you will be asked to give a speech or presentation. The outcome will go either of two ways. Will you read off the slides and produce another moment when people feel their time was wasted? Or, will you conduct something memorable?
Decide to Become a Great Speaker
13 years ago, I spoke publicly for the first time. I prepared, studied my notes, pushed through the anxiety, and blew it! I gave my assigned two-minute, life story speech, in 45 seconds — in my freshman public speaking class.
Since then, I’ve spoken publicly well over 100 times. I’m always honing my craft, but public speaking is a skill I would rank toward the top of my professional toolbox.
Public speaking is THE best personal development exercise you can engage in. Excellent presentation skills are to the professional what the six-shooter was to Wyatt Earp. It’s necessary.
It does the following:
- Builds Confidence.
- Helps you develop quicker methods of learning.
- Establishes YOU as an authority.
Whether fair or not, it’s also going to affect your career opportunities. People tend to value those who can confidently articulate ideas to a group.
If you’d like to be a great presenter, I can’t tell you it’s easy. It’s going to take dedication & study. The following are three things I’ve done to develop this skill:
1. Study voraciously. I can’t stress this point enough. It – is – the – single – most – important – thing you can do to present confidently. No amount of technique and style prepares you for a speech that lacks substance. Anytime I prepare a talk, I read multiple articles on the subject, listen to other experts, and speak to anyone on the subject who knows more than I. When you’re at the point when your brain feels like it can’t hold any more – keep piling on!
2. Model other speakers. I am a conference junkie. Whether on YouTube, TED Talks, or attending a live event, conferences are not only a place to learn but to study the craft of speaking. When you watch professionals at work, you will see the different ways they use inflection, strategic pausing, body language, and interweave the art of storytelling.
I didn’t say copy other speakers. Model.
My favorite speakers include:
Each with a totally different style, each with powerful stage presence and meaningful content.
Take some tips from the professionals and then develop your own style and personal flair that is you.
3. Read “How to Develop Self Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking” by Dale Carnegie. Hands down, this is the best tool I came across when I began speaking in professional circles. Knowing how to prepare, the proper ways to open and close a talk, and even knowing little things like; how to eat on a day you are presenting, are laid out there. I still reference it often.
4. Practice. In your office, in the car, in the shower. The more you do this while imaging you are in the moment of your grand masterpiece, the better the real event. It’s been said that for every hour you’re going to talk, you need four hours of practice. That may be light if you are going to give a truly remarkable talk without notes, but none the less, practice does make perfect.
Expanding on these subjects would take multiple posts so I’ll just list a few key things that will help your delivery.
- (5) Smile while you talk.
- (6) Stand up straight. The back of your neck should rest against your collar.
- (7) Make eye contact with everyone in the room. Try not to focus on one person – it makes them feel weird.
- (8) Avoid saying “UM” and other filler words. Learn to appreciate the silence of a pause. It helps ideas sink in and allows people to anticipate what’s next.
- (9) Never begin by thanking the crowd, letting them know how nervous you are, or say some pithy blurb about how you’re not very good at this. You’re up there for a reason. Captivate them.
Should I Imagine Them In Their Underwear?
(10) I’m sure someone has told you this before. “If you’re nervous, imagine everyone in their underwear and it goes away.”
What probably makes you nervous, and me too is thinking folks are judging you while you speak. I would think they expected me to fail, mess up, and a hundred other lies. That’s a common misconception beginning speakers have.
What’s true, is the audience is generally anticipating, and hoping, you deliver something of value. Leave fear at the door.
Being a great public speaker will be hard work. It’s nerve-wracking to prepare for hours, perfect your timing, and then pray people don’t think you’re boring.
However, it’s totally worth it.
Question: Have you spoken in public? What tips would you have?