The idea of speaking in front of an audience is already intimidating enough. Public speaking is one of the top phobias; many people fear it more than death! Instead of focusing on the speaking itself, try improving your public speaking opportunities with these 10 tips that don’t require any speaking whatsoever!
10. Learn your audience.
Your speech is nothing without an audience! Research your audience to learn the best venues and platforms for your speaking engagements. Seek demographic data whenever you can. Knowing your audience will help you develop the right messaging. Which posts and what content generated the most reactions from your followers? If you’re conducting interviews on podcasts or going live on social media, research the best days and times to interact with them. When are your followers most active on social media? Get a firm understanding of your audience and the topics they want to hear, and plan accordingly.
9. Look the part.
Represent your brand and dress like a member of your audience and client base. You should reflect both your product/service and your client base. Your image should be consistent with those you serve. Likewise, your attire should align with the price points of your featured product/service and topic. Otherwise, you won’t be trusted. You’ll look like someone who doesn’t even march to the beat of the drum you’re selling.
8. Dress comfortably.
Now make sure you’re comfortable! Your goal with every speaking opportunity is to be present and engage with your community. If you’re uncomfortable you may fidget or be distracted, and it will show. Be mindful of the environment–will you be too cold? Sweat too much or overheat? Will the hat you’re wearing keep falling off? Will your jewelry bang against the microphone? Think ahead and dress for comfort so you aren’t distracted–and so you don’t become a distraction to your audience.
7. Remember to “PBS”. Pause. Breath. Slow down.
The first thing we do when we’re nervous is start to speak too quickly, and we run out of breath! It’s not a good feeling to be winded when speaking, so correct this early. Practice first–in front of a mirror, or record yourself. Pay attention to the pace and rhythm of your speaking voice. If you find that you rush when nervous, slow yourself down by taking longer pauses between words, and taking deep breaths in through your nose and out your mouth. It’s very similar to trying to catch your breath while running or jogging. Here’s a tip: inhale and say “P-B-S” to yourself. It will remind you to pause, breath, slow down and pace your breath.
6. Invite a friend!
The more the merrier, right? Yes, everything’s better with a friend! The banter between two hosts or speakers is very effective in engaging the senses and holding an audience’s attention. But be strategic about who you invite to join you. Guests and co-hosts should align with either your brand or your community; they should have a product, service or story that resonates with your audience. If they don’t, the discussion may not be of value to your audience, AND it may deter them from ever joining you again.
5. Structure your speech. Develop an agenda/program.
Speaking opportunities are a great time to be authentic and put yourself out there–but be your BEST self. This is for your audience, so make every minute of their time and participation count. Don’t wing the conversation. Give them a preview of what you’ll cover in and what they will get out of your speech–it makes it easier for them to follow along and not lose focus. Then, make sure you discuss every point you promised! Leave them feeling fulfilled (not like they wasted their time) and wanting to hear you speak again!
4. Use notecards
Again, don’t wing it! If you’ve taken time to carefully organize your speech and curate the discussion, you certainly don’t want to miss any of the key points! Work from a bulleted list of main points and/or agenda items. This helps you stay on topic and make the most of the time allotted. It’s also a great way to make note of follow-up questions and comments. Also, using notecards rather than flimsy paper make you look more polished and aren’t as noisy when handled!
3. Give your speech “CPR” – Credibility. Personality. Relatability.
Someone told me recently, “I’m not buying the product if the owner is a mystery or doesn’t seem confident!” The first step in selling your product or service is to effectively sell yourself. People do business with those they trust, like and know. If you want to see the way I break down my CPR acronym and position it against what’s known in social media marketing as the “Know/Like/Trust” factor, you can check that out here.
Way too often these days I see people deliver in a way that mirrors a Ted Talk, as if that has become the standard for giving talks. But what makes people like you, and feel like they know you, is when you sprinkle a little of what they’ve come to learn about your personality! So as you develop your talking points, be sure to season it with what people know about your personality, and what makes you credible and relatable.
2. Memorize, and visualize yourself getting through your speech successfully.
Once your agenda items are determined, memorize things like your introduction, and any jokes, facts/statistics, or other things that add flavor to the conversation. Memorizing and knowing them versus reading them also add to your credibility. They make the content feel more like second-nature to you and take away the anxiety out of forgetting something important!
Call it a “dress rehearsal” in your head! Visualize running through and sequencing your speech until you know exactly where you can inject a quote, story, testimonial, song, etc. without losing your place. Visualize your success!
1. Practice looking confident in your “Proud Stance”
The Proud Stance is a term and exercise I use as I coach clients on how to fall into a comfortable but professional position that they can hold for at least one minute. I have a quick and helpful demo of how to practice your Proud Stance here. A minute is about how long it takes to introduce yourself at the top of your speaking opportunity and establish credibility. It’s also about the amount of time it takes to respond to a poignant question. So practice falling into a comfortable position that looks professional, but matches your personality. Try to hold that position without rocking, pacing, fidgeting or adjusting your clothes. A person who can hold a position with confidence commands an audience’s attention!
And there you have it–10 ways to improve your public speaking, and fine tune your speaking opportunities before you even begin to deliver them!
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