I have heard that a powerful critical skill to have is public speaking. However, when the word public speaking emerges or the thought of it, the description befits the greatest fear next to death. Interestingly, it conjures anxiety, butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms and visible signs of nervousness that may get the better of you.
There are simple techniques and strategies that can help you overcome the fear and deliver your best performance. Did I just use the word performance?…ahh, yes I did. A gentle reminder, life is a performance and public speaking is its muse. You do speak daily to family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Public speaking is the art of communicating a speech to a live audience through performance. The following lifehacks are key to making your public speaking act memorable.
Your Purpose as Your Performance
The art of mastering your performance is to know your purpose – why you are speaking. Preparation is key, however, your purpose matters even more. Before you start preparing, you need to know what is your purpose for speaking. Get an understanding of the audience you will be speaking to, and are you speaking to inspire, inform, educate, entertain or to persuade them? Learn about the listeners that you will be speaking and interacting with. Are they millenials or C-Suite executives to be inspired and informed respectively? Well, once you know your purpose then you begin your performance preparation. Knowing your purpose and audience makes your preparation for your presentation better.
Your speech is prepared – the topic, overview, specific purpose, central idea and your main points. Your speech is ready and you are now able to deliver your purpose as a compelling performance.
Embrace the Butterflies
You are prepared to make your presentation, only when and only when you embrace your nervousness as a benchmark. I believe little ‘butterflies in the stomach‘ are an indication you are alive, you will do well. Here is an 80/20 rule that helps: 80% of your nervousness is not visible to your audience, only 20% is visible i.e. your voice trembles, shaking hands and sweaty palms. To counter the 20%, speak with a projected voice and intermittently take deep breaths, let the lectern or podium be your support, by resting your arm on either side gently, do not grip! Or use controlled gesticulation with your hands. Now that your breathing is controlled sweaty palms are not visible and your hands are okay, you are one step closer to making a stellar performance.
Engage with Stories and Your Personality
Sharing your stories and anecdotes in your presentation helps to connect with your audience and your performance. Storytelling makes your presentation more personal and authentic (Related article https://creativemagezine.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/the-art-of-storytelling-your-life-as-a-tapestry-of-stories/). Engaging your audience is essential to your public speaking performance. They are there to listen to you, not the powerpoint and the gadgets, its the reciprocal relationship with your audience, that matters. Let your personality, your smile and your presence shine through. They are aspects of your performance, and when they shine through it builds credibility with your audience and trust.
Performance in public speaking is not about ‘practice makes perfect’, it is about learning brings lifelong benefits. Your capacity to be better with every public speaking performance enhance your abilities to master your fear.