Public speaking

Do you find public speaking a little bit daunting but, like me, find it hard to know how to improve? Well, like most things, it is a skill that you can learn over time. Here are some top tips to help you do just that:

1. Do It!

Ha – yes why not? Take the plunge – yes, you will make mistakes to begin with, but you will learn from them. You will be surprised at how quickly you improve and how fast your confidence grows.

To make it easier – practice. Practice in front of the mirror or the dog! Use a smartphone or your laptop to record yourself. Play it back and critique your performance.   What points can you improve on? You will always be your harshest critic, but, as you get more confident, show a recording to someone whose opinion you value and get their feedback.

2. Choose subjects you have a deep level of knowledge and are passionate about

Your audience will quickly see that you are talking as an expert and be more engaged – make sure you pick the right audiences though!

By talking about something you are passionate about, your audience will notice that and engage with you quickly.

Try to relax and be yourself – you will find your own style and your audiences will tell quickly if you are trying to be something you are not.

3. Watch and listen to expert speakers

Try to pick people who you feel a connection with. TedTalks are great place to start. Check out the speaker’s tone of voice, body language and the language they use. Try to incorporate some of these points into your presentations. Have I said this before? Keep practising!

4. Don’t use notes

Reading from notes or your slides means you lose the connection with your audience. Notes can be a valuable tool to help with your confidence but as you develop, it is good plan to condense these into bullet points on 5x3 cards. Soon you will be able to get rid of the notes so, keep on practising!

5. Plan for the unexpected

We all hit problems. Sometimes these can be technical. As part of your preparation, think about what you would do if something goes wrong. It could be the microphone, it could be the projector – in fact it could be anything. Always have a backup ready then, when it does happen, you will be ready for it.

6. Have a set routine before you speak

This isn’t about superstition but is part of your preparation. It may be a final read through your notes, checking the projector works, having a final practice in your car before you go in to speak – whatever works for you!

I like to visualise me delivering the speech. Listen to the sound of the audience applause in my head. Imagine that the speech is going great. I also like to stretch my face and jump up and down on the spot to get the adrenaline going. (Obviously not in public!) Going through a routine will relax you and should increase your confidence and feeling of being in control. Routines are very grounding and give you a newfound sense of confidence and control.

7. Breathe before your presentation

Take some deep breaths to relax and get oxygen into your system. Breathe deeply into and below the diaphragm and never too quickly otherwise you may hyperventilate and collapse before you start – never a good thing!

8. Don’t start to talk immediately

The best speakers often take a few seconds of silence to set the tone for their talk. Never speak whilst you are walking out to the front of the stage and always take a moment to pause, stand and look at the audience, take a deep breath then you can start

If you start talking immediately, you may talk too quickly or trip over some words. Take a moment to get comfortable.

When you start to speak, make an impactful start. Begin with a relevant story, a rhetorical question or indeed a quotation. Facts and figures work well too – ensure that the first thing you say is relevant and true and ensure that you cover the answer or solve the problem during your presentation.

9. Your presentation should be about giving information, not selling

Give your audience hints, tips, and advice. It isn’t about promoting your product or service, it’s about establishing yourself as an expert that they will trust and want to speak with after the presentation.

10. Keep the words on your slides to a minimum

Use as few slides as possible and use pictures rather than words where you can. Your audience have come to listen to you, not to sit there and read. Don’t hand out copies of the slides beforehand – some in the audience will just sit there reading ahead.

In fact, try to get to down to my ‘One-slide-Presentation’© and you will WOW your audience!

Think about having Twitter hashtags on your slides and encourage the audience to tweet during your presentation – it will build you a social media following very quickly!

My final top tip – give me a call or drop me a line. I can help with your developing or enhancing your script, your slide deck or indeed the mechanics of the stage.

Phil Heath a.k.a. philthefunnel – creating confidence through communication.
Tel: +44 (0)791 700 4464 Mail: phil@philheath.com