Does this sound familiar? You’ve been asked to say a few words or introduce yourself to an audience and one of these, if not all, start to happen: your mouth dries up, you feel your heart pounding, you feel sick to your stomach and start to wonder if you’ll pass out… and now you’re even shaking!
You may as well bury your head in the sand if you think you can go your whole life without ever having to speak in public and so I put together seven simple tips that can help newcomers and even seasoned speakers.
1. We are thankful for you!
Everyone wants to hear what you have to say and wants you to succeed. We’re pulling for you. If ever a group of people was on your side it’s now because, quite frankly, we’re glad it’s not us! Try not to finish your speech with a “thank you”. It almost states “you can applaud now”. Instead, finish on a high note.. speak deliberately and leave with something the audience will remember “…and now you know why I chose a career as a clown” or “and I hope the bride and groom will always be as happy as they are today!”
2. Listening to other speakers
Listen to the speaker before you… it will mean you won’t concentrate on your nerves, you will watch how they are speaking and pick up things you like and don’t like about how they speak and the way they say it. You may even notice something they’ve said that you can reference in your own speech.
3. How to calm yourself
Sing! Yes, your read it right, sing to yourself – NOTE: not out loud! Choose a song you like, something inspirational, soothing or motivational and sing it to yourself before you start. I sing “We are the Champions” by Queen… but choose your own, have fun with it.
4. How to make better eye contact
Set up salt and pepper shakers, bottle of mustard, a knife, a spoon, a dish towel and anything else – about six objects – around the kitchen, stand back and practice looking at them. Then give a speech looking at each one randomly but make sure you get all of them. Go away, come back in an hour, do it again. This single action stopped me looking into space and had people telling me “I felt you were looking directly at me when you were giving your talk”.
5. How to think about your posture
What animal are you? Are you a little hamster, curled over? Maybe you’re a stork, standing like a statue, hands directly by your side? Are you a squirrel, hands fidgeting with something in front of you? Or maybe you’re a caged animal, pacing back and forth?
Take a look at Anthony Robbins, one of the all-time great speakers… how does he stand? Does he stand hunched over? with his hands by his side? head down? Anthony Robbins is the poster child for ENERGY. His face is smiling and animated; his hands and arms are stretched out and moving, his chest is out, shoulders back, legs in a solid stance, when he walks it’s with strength… he’s a tiger.
6. Grabbing the right kind of attention
How do you want your audience to feel? Intense interest? Happiness? Laughter? Sadness? Educated? Unless you’re a hypnotist and want your audience to go to sleep, vocal variation is incredibly important. Practice and listen to others. Speak softly enough for people to hear and loudly enough not to deafen them. I am embarrassed to look at old videos of myself because even though I had the clear advantage of an English accent, I had no vocal variation.
One of the few people who can get away with very little vocal variation is Eckhart Tolle but this man is the quintessential example of the word “humble”.
7. Even seasoned speakers make this mistake
You need to know how long you have to speak and practice your timing. If you’re too fast or too slow you will not end ON TIME and that is not considerate of the Event Planner or the person speaking after you… they’re left pressed for time or have to find a filler for the gaping hole you just left. Discover immediately before you give your speech how much time you have left to talk.
Hopefully, the event – and the person before you – are both running on time. Do not speak very fast to catch up. Know your speech and know what you can cut if you have to – your Event Planner will remember how you helped out and it’s a great way to score brownie points.
No matter what, remember that if you go in prepared with little tips and think about just a few things to help you, it can make all the difference and you will enjoy speaking much more!