“Being successful at networking is realizing that,
to get where you’re going,
you need to help others get to where they’re going.”
J. Kelly Hoey

 As an entertainer, I find myself behind a microphone every weekend and I feel comfortable for the most part. Whether I like it or not, the role I play requires me to communicate, facilitate and direct. I get a lot of practice. Being the master of ceremonies and a good communicator is key to the procedures that occur at a given event and key to successful participation from guests. There are some caveats to this exchange of information that include having the right details to share and eager participants who will listen and follow direction. As the quote states above, by helping others get where they need to go or in this case gain knowledge, I will achieve my goal as well and get better at directing them too. Therefore, I dare ask, “How can you become more comfortable when you need to speak in public?”

There are many websites and resource tools that can help you learn and navigate learning to speak in public. Below are a few sites and links to resources that in my opinion had a common thread. First, it is completely normal to fear speaking in public. For decades, research has shown public speaking is our number one fear. Although some make public speaking look effortless or natural, it is important to note that many professionals deal with nerves and anxiety. Lifehaker.com (2013) shares some pointers related to speaking in public and mentions this quote from the documentary by Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld: “You’re never really comfortable [on stage]. Even though you may think you are… you really aren’t. But, with time and practice, you learn how to open, how to sustain, how to pace…” Lifehaker.com (2013) continues by suggesting a few things to try to build your confidence.

  • Practice Makes Perfect (or Poised) – The more you know your material, the more comfortable you’ll be. Rehearse, rehearse, and then rehearse some more until you see yourself doing it perfectly. Practice in front of friends and family and/or video tape yourself (Lifehaker.com, 2013).
  • Bond with the audience. You offer value and so do they. It’s about you having a conversation with a room full of equals. That’s one of the secrets of overcoming speech anxiety – make it feel like a conversation. Seeing and treating people like equals is an important fundamental shift in your perspective as an effective public speaker. Before your presentation, take time to talk to the people in the audience and make a connection with them. It’s a good idea to also get familiar with the environment (Lifehaker.com, 2013).
  • When you’re preparing your talk, anticipate possible questions, including challenging or opposing viewpoints. Think of examples, anecdotes, or other support you can use to answer those questions. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t know the answer (Lifehaker.com, 2013). WikiHow.com (2016) argues that people often do not display encouragement on their faces.

Lifehaker.com (2013) suggests many other pointers to help while preparing to speak in public. You can click to their site to read other pointers on how to avoid butterflies, stuttering and speaking too fast. I would agree that it is important to find and feel the passion in your topic. It is important to focus on the message and the conversation with your audience, rather than focus on your performance. Nervousness happens to all of us when we become too self-conscious. If you can talk passionately about your subject, audiences will soak it up and, before you know it, the presentation will be over (Lifehaker.com, (2013).

Forbes.com (2016) and their contributor IESE Business School, continues the good advice and suggests that there are few skills that will bring more opportunity into your life than the ability to speak well in public. Below are their 12 tips that can make the difference between those speakers who leave a powerful, positive impression and those that are quickly forgotten.

  • Speak with an intent to move people to action. Know what you want your audience to do immediately after hearing your speech. If nobody does anything different than they would have done before you spoke – the value of your speech is zero.
  • Start strong with a “grabber”. A personal story, a quote from an expert or a shocking statistic – something that takes a hold of your audience and gets them hooked and opens their mind to your message. Give the audience a chance to see your personal connection to the topic.
  • Structure your material in three sections– grabber, middle, close. Know your material.
  • Practice. Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe.
  • Know the audience. Try to speak to one or two people in the audience as they arrive – they will be your allies in the audience – it is easier to speak to friends than to strangers.
  • Know the setup. Arrive in good time to check out the speaking area and get practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
  • Begin with a well-prepared grabber. A relevant personal story is a great start. It establishes your credibility.  It connects you to the audience and creates the right emotional atmosphere (and calms your nerves).
  • Visualize yourself successful. See yourself at the end of the speech surrounded by people asking questions, visualize the applause.
  • Include 3-8 second pauses at key moments – just before key statements or just after a story – this really brings the audience into the speech.
  • Don’t apologize – the audience probably never noticed it.
  • Look like the content matters to you – if the audience does not feel that it is important to you, it will be really hard for them to feel that it should be important for them.
  • Get experience. Take every opportunity you can get to speak (and listen to other speakers). Prepare well ahead of time. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking.

Can you become more comfortable speaking in public? The answer is…Yes! In time, with practice and use of the pointers and tips mentioned on the various websites above, you too can achieve, appear and present an effortless or natural presentation. We all deal with nerves and anxiety, but we can reduce these problems with increased confidence in ourselves and our topic. I would love to hear your story about speaking in public. Share it with me at our next ILEA program. It would be a great conversation starter. #myilea #ileasa