This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.
Fear of public speaking is a very common form of anxiety. It can range from sweaty palms, shaky hands, a blushed face, a quivering voice, or a stomach tied in knots, to outright panic. But by using the following proven public speaking tips, you can not only overcome your public speaking anxiety, but also deliver high-quality and memorable presentations.
- Passionately know and fully understand your topic.
The following prerequisites can ensure that you select the right subject:
- The topic energizes you and is something you are absolutely passionate about.
- The subject has had a major impact on you.
- You feel intensely that others could benefit from your knowledge about the topic.
- The subject is something that gets you excited to share with others.
- You can, and do, speak about the topic “from your heart.”
- Bring a heightened sense of energy to the venue.
Recognize that you are not just a speaker, but also an entertainer. This fact is one of the most important pieces of advice given to me by my former speaking coach.
- Get organized.
Being organized before your delivery is critical. In fact, when you have clear and organized thoughts, it significantly reduces your public speaking anxiety, because you can become much more focused on the end goal: giving an absolutely awesome speech.
- Eliminate your fear of rejection and visualize your success.
Make a concerted effort to eradicate your fear of rejection. As such, remember that the audience is there to listen to you for a reason. They came. Visualize the coming applause and ideally, the standing ovation at the end of your speech.
- Know your audience.
- Who are they?
- What are they passionate about?
- What motivates them?
- What topics are they most interested in?
- What are their pain points or fears?
My former speaking coach taught me to never dress below the level of my audiences. By out-dressing them, you give the appearance and impression that you ARE knowledgeable, professional, and an impressive presenter.
- Pre-circulate with your audience.
Meet your audience members before your speech. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Make eye contact with many of them and especially those people who will be sitting in your front rows.
By pre-circulating with them, you will be far more relaxed, which is ideal for conquering your public speaking anxiety. You will see friendly faces from the stage and it will calm you.
- Try to get your speech scheduled at the very beginning of the event.
Your audience will be fresher at that time. Avoid the post-lunch speaking time slot when peoples’ stomachs are full and they are naturally more likely to be sleepy.
- Ensure that the room you are given for your speech fits the expected size of your audience.
The last situation you want is to be given a room that is far too large for your audience. If the room is too large, it can give the impression that you are unsuccessful from the start, since it looks like people either “did not show up” or seemed uninterested in your speech.
- Use an outline in your head to stay organized and remain on track.
If you’re nervous, speaking off the cuff is not recommended. Have a plan and stick to it.
- Practice, practice, and practice.
There is a very sage truth to the phrase “practice makes perfect.” Leverage this fact. One of the related best public speaking tips is to practice your speech in front of a mirror or in front of your friends, family, or better yet, experienced speakers or a speaking coach. Speaking in front of another person will not only help you relax, but also get you the feedback you need to improve, whether you’re a professional keynote speaker or you’re giving a one-off talk at an industry conference.
Get this feedback and most importantly, act on it. While watching yourself in the mirror, pay attention to:
- How welcoming you appear.
- Your gestures and body movements.
- Your facial expressions.
- Your energy level.
- Your speech patterns and use of pauses (discussed later).
- Your beginning and close, the two most judged parts of your speech.
Alternatively, videotape yourself. Listen to it and watch it with wonderful critical judgement. Take notes on what you can do better. Raise the bar and practice more. Record yourself again. Practice more.
- Make sure you request a teleprompter and “walk-up” music from your event planner.
The former prevents you from turning your back on your audience (a big speaking no-no) to read your slides. The walk-up music assuages your public speaking anxiety and gets your audience “fired up” for your speech.
- Get some light exercise before you speak.
This is one of the most overlooked tips for public speaking. Not only does the exercise get your blood circulating and “wake you up,” it also sends oxygen to your brain. Furthermore, the exercise relaxes you and thus, helps you control your public speaking anxiety.
- Make sure you have water at the ready in case your throat goes dry.
Adding lemon to the water also helps lubricate your throat and keep your voice crisp. It is also important to avoid sugary drinks as they tend to dry out your throat.
- Do some deep breathing.
This is recommended for reducing your stress level and making you feel calmer.
- Use your nervous energy to fuel your passion for speaking.
Simply put, learn to channel your nervous energy into positive energy which extinguishes your public speaking anxiety.
- Avoid talking too quickly.
Talking too fast restricts your breathing and thereby heightens your public speaking anxiety.
- Use “The Speech Pause.”
One of the most powerful speaking techniques is known as “The Speech Pause.” Pausing at certain points of your speech helps quell your public speaking anxiety and also allows you to master your control over the emotional impact of your speech. Pausing also helps you regulate your breathing, further calming your public speaking anxiety.
All of the best speakers recognize, and regularly use, powerful dramatic speech pauses. For yourself, begin by testing where these pauses should be sprinkled throughout your presentation. Then test whether where you put the pauses is having the dramatic impact intended. Get feedback on your chosen pauses and act on it.
- Don’t overthink your audience’s reactions.
Just because some one is yawning or using their cell phone does not mean you are doing a poor job with your speech. Know upfront that there will always be people in your audience who are tired, bored, or disengaged. None of these reactions have anything to do with how you are performing your speech. Don’t let them distract you. Stay focused.
- Hire a Speaking Coach.
There are many keynote speakers out on the speaking circuit and all of them know and have a clear recognition of how competitive a landscape it is, including me. I’ve been on the speaking tour for almost 10 years and have learned a lot, especially those little secrets that are key to securing paid engagements regularly. All of the best public speakers have valued and hired an independent Speaking Coach. If you want to fast track your paid public speaking career, you should seriously consider hiring a Speaking Coach.
This link will give you a great idea on what you should expect from a speaking coach you hire.
- Recognize your success.
Celebrate the high points and success of your speech.
- Create a detailed plan to improve your next speech.
Once again, practice makes perfect. Ask yourself the following questions after your speech:
- Did you get feedback from the audience? (By the way, make it a regular practice to ask your event planner to conduct a confidential post-speech survey of your event attendees. Ideally, you should review this survey document in advance, such that you can tailor your speech, increasing the likelihood of getting positive feedback and survey scores).
- How do you think you did? Be your own worst critic.
- How effective were your speech pauses?
- How was your pace and timing? Did you start and end on time?
- How was your close? Did your speech end with a bang?
- What were your audience’s reactions during and at the end of your speech?
- Did you get the standing ovation you were hoping for?
Write down the answers to all of these questions and keep practicing and improving.
Jerry Seinfeld once said:
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if they have to go to a funeral, they are better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
By using all of these tactical public speaking tips, you will successfully bury your public speaking anxiety for good.
Kevin Sheridan is an internationally-recognized Keynote Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of Employee Engagement. For six years running, he has been honored on Inc. Magazine’s top 100 Leadership Speakers in the world, as well as Inc.’s top 100 experts on Employee Engagement. He was also honored to be named to The Employee Engagement Award’s Top 101 Global Influencers on Employee Engagement of 2017.
Having spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, Kevin has helped some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement. His first book, Building a Magnetic Culture, made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers.
Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.
Web site: www.kevinsheridanllc.com