How do you feel when your college or university professor asks you to come on stage and deliver a presentation? Does stage fright get the better of you? Does fear of public speaking prevent your words from coming out naturally? If yes, then you are not alone. We have all been in such a situation at least once in our lives. In fact, it is estimated that 75% of people are afraid of public speaking.
Yes, you read that right. 3 out of every 4 people fear jumping on the stage and speaking their heart out. Thankfully, all is not lost. You can still get over your stage fright and perform on stage like a professional speaker. You might be thinking, ‘but surely that’s not possible?’. Well it is.
There are two key components of public speaking, subject matter and presentation. Subject matter deals with the content of the speech while presentation is the way you convey your message. Both are equally important. Public speaking is an art. Just like any other art form, you cannot master public speaking overnight. It will take time and effort. The public speaking secrets shared in this article will help you to hone your public speaking skills.
1) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”—Benjamin Franklin
You might come across naturally gifted individuals who can do a fantastic job at speaking in public without preparing for it. Yes, they are a rare breed and you should not try to mimic them. Instead you should prepare yourself for the event.
Most successful speakers spend weeks in preparation. Speakers like Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King spent hours and, in some cases, even days, choosing the right words for their message.
The greatest orators can spend hours perfecting the way they are going to convey their message to their audience. Stand in front of a mirror or make your best friends listen to their speech. You can choose a method that works for you but make sure you are well prepared when you are called upon the stage.
2) Keep it Short and Relevant
Human attention span is at an all-time low. You cannot expect people to listen to you if you keep going for hours straight. Depending on your message, set a time limit for yourself and try to convey your message in that time frame. Keep your speech short and to the point and avoid diverting away from the main topic because that can prolong your speech and detract from your message.
You don’t want to be trying to deliver a speech to an audience who has lost interest in what you’re saying. Even worse, you don’t want to be talking to people who are sleeping. When you are delivering your message, you want your audience to pay attention to what you are saying. This would only happen if you manage to keep them engaged. You can do that by sharing an amazing stat or telling an interesting story that they can relate to before conveying your message.
3) Convey your Message Clearly
You might have the best app ideas (or whatever!) but if you fail to explain it to your target audience, you will end up with a wrong final product. That is why it is important to convey your message clearly. When conveying your message, choose simple words so that everyone can easily understand your message. Avoid using wordy language and jargon because it can backfire. Don’t beat about the bush and come straight to the point.
4) Build an Emotional Connection
Have you ever heard a speech from a famous orator? If you have then you know that these orators tend to connect with their audience at an emotional level. Their eyes, hands, face and whole body convey the emotions. That is when the audience really felt that they are part of the story the speaker is telling. This is the power of building an emotional connection with your audience. Once you are emotionally connected with a speaker, you not only tend to believe whatever he or she says but can also feel the emotion yourself too.
5) Pause for a Moment or Two
Mae West summed it up brilliantly when she said,
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
The tone, voice and pace all matter as much as the content of your speech if not more. One of my favorite speech was delivered by Steve Jobs when he was invited by Stanford University to give his commencement address. The speech was aptly titled, “How to Live Before You Die”:
During the first couple of minutes of the speech, he paused nine times. It is one of the best examples how silence can be used to good effect. Pauses can add more drama to your speeches and highlight important points. More importantly, it offers the audience few seconds to absorb the message you are delivering. Instead of using words like “ah”, “you know” and “um”, it is better to stay silent or take a pause.
6) Evoke Curiosity
Your audience has come to hear what you have to say, and they want to take something away with them from your speech. If your speech doesn’t provide them some food for thought or evoke their curiosity then what was the point? You can leave your audience with an open-ended question or a topic that stimulates them enough to investigate further themselves. Instead of sharing everything with your audience, you should leave a few questions unanswered which would persuade your audience to do more research themselves and find answers to those questions.
7) Use Humour Smartly
Your speech can become quite boring if it is on a dry subject and your audience will quickly lose interest. To prevent that from happening, you can use humour strategically. Strike the perfect balance when using humour. You don’t want to be going overboard with the jokes as it might make your speech look unprofessional, or too boring with little or no humour.
How do you improve your public speaking? Let us know in the comments section below.