Now that you’ve become a leader you probably feel like you are in the spotlight all the time.
You have to lead meetings, communicate with different departments, give presentations and constantly inform your superior and your team about what’s going on. This amount of public speaking can be tiring, especially if you are an introvert or a very new leader. Thinking about how to communicate properly in public can cause stress and distract you from achieving your actual work goals.
In today’s blogpost you can find three useful and simple tips to improve your public speaking skills (and maybe even start enjoying it).
1. Take things slow.
When we are put in situations that scare us our natural instinct is to run away. This is what happens when we become the focus of attention. You might have prepared a 5-minute speech and even practiced it at home. You know where you should make a pause, what words to emphasize and when to lower your tone to create a dramatic effect.
However, as soon as you are faced with an audience, big or small, you forget everything you’ve practiced and just try to get it done as quickly as possible. Your perfectly planned speech turns into a mumble of words in front of the board of directors !
Sounds familiar? The good news is there’s a way to fix it.
The answer is NOT, as many will recommend, to imagine everyone naked. Honestly, that has never helped me!
Instead, constantly remind yourself to slow down. Before starting, take three slow, deep calming breaths. You already know what you have to say and how you want to say it. So give yourself time to say it. You’ll probably feel that your pace is way too slow, but trust me, you are keeping an average speed. The rush to speak faster comes from wanting to get out of the situation.
This is not only applicable to your speech’s speed. If you are anything like me, you might fidget and move aimlessly around the room. Tell yourself to slow down. You can even use those planned dramatic pauses for this reminder. Plant your feet on the ground. If you choose to move around the room to approach different parts of the audience, start by taking another deep breath. Then move purposefully and powerfully.
2. Make it simple.
If you really struggle with public speaking, simplify things for yourself. If the public encounter is a presentation where you have to actually deliver a speech, practice it repeatedly. Don’t memorize it word for word or you might freeze if you forget a word. It’s better to remember the order of your ideas and practice using different sentences to deliver them.
You can also write down in index cards the main concepts you want to cover and have these available during your presentation or meeting. It’s perfectly fine to look down at your cards for a moment or two, as long as you’re not reading from them. The cards will help you if you get very nervous and you lose focus midway through your speech.
Making it simple also means getting rid of all the unnecessary extras. Don’t use powerpoint presentations, images or videos unless they are really necessary for getting your point across. Technology can fail us when we most need it and having to think about changing slides can distract you more than help. If you really need visual supports, make sure you practice beforehand how to use them to create the biggest impact.
3. Try to enjoy the process.
It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you are freaking out. But you can use your stage fright to connect with the audience. We’ve all been there. Most people will understand and appreciate it if you state frankly that you are nervous or make some joke about it.
You can also connect with the audience in other ways. Ask them questions, start a conversation. People love sharing their own ideas.
By engaging in a conversation with your audience, you’ll push the spotlight away from you., so you’ll also keep them entertained and they’ll likely have a good memory of the experience. It will also help them retain whatever you say to them more easily, creating a long lasting impact.
Try to enjoy what you are doing so you can share that energy with your audience!
These are my three tips to improve your public speaking skills! Candela has also developed a handy guide to help you develop a memorable presentation in 9 practical steps. Download it for free here!
What about you? Do you get nervous when speaking in public? How do you handle it? Let us know in the comments or in any of our social media!
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