Using a few key building blocks, you can make it much easier for yourself. Then, you will look confident, feel confident and ultimately become confident about public speaking.
We have coached thousands of people to help them deliver confident persuasive talks and presentations. Our top tips for overcoming public speaking anxiety:
1. Start planning your talk early – As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Start work as soon as you can and let your talk evolve. A few notes on a blank sheet of paper is the perfect beginning. The less public speaking you do, the more preparation you need. Even experienced speakers will tell you the value of time in creating a great confident talk.
2. Turn the talk so it’s about them, not about you – This is one of the most powerful techniques to help build confidence. By repositioning the focus of the talk so it’s about the audience rather then about you, many people find it easier to be confident and engaging. For example, rather than talking about “What we did to make this project a success” talk about “How this project will help you achieve your sales targets.”
3. Craft a powerful start – When you start well, it’s easier to continue well. Your first 30 seconds are the most important part of your talk. If unsure how to start, use a tried and tested approach that others have proven. Get your start right and the rest will feel much easier.
4. Use a clear structure – If you make it easy for your audience to follow your talk, you will make it easier for you to give it. Generally it is smarter to have a few good ideas covered well rather than a lot of ideas covered quickly. Give yourself a strong start, a simple logical framework and a powerful end.
5. Bring it all to life – Beware of a fact-laden presentation. The best talks are animated with stories, metaphors, observations and personal anecdotes. One story is worth a dozen pages of data.
6. Talk to one person at a time – Unless you really are a politician who needs to win thousands of votes, beware of declaiming to the masses. Instead imagine your talk as a conversation with one person at a time. When you use the language, the structure and the phrasing that you would when talking to one person, you will find it much easier to give your talk.
7. Use short sentences and short words – Winston Churchill said ““Short words are best and old words when short are the best of all.” Edit your talk to use shorter, simpler phrases and words. The simpler you can make it, the more authoritative and confident you will sound.
8. Include plenty of pauses – Pauses in your talk are like white space in a piece of design. They give it meaning and form. A pause is a time for your audience to absorb what you have said and for you to compose your next phrase. Use them to separate ideas and point your audience to what is important.
9. Look people in the eye – When you have eye contact not only is it more interesting for your audience, but it helps you adjust to the pace of your audience. Aim to speak to one person for each sentence or two.
10. Practise – You can make yourself confident through practice. Psychological research has shown that those who pretend to be confident eventually become more confident. So, learn how to look confident and then continue so you fake it until you make it.
You may be surprised to find how many known public speakers actually dislike the process of giving talks in public. But, like Winston Churchill, they knew they had to look good at it to be successful in their careers, so they worked at it, often with professional coaches and trainers. Over the years we have helped many CEOs and senior executives overcome their fear of public speaking. You can do the same.
Download our free ebook to start your journey towards becoming a Powerful Presenter.
You’ll learn our 5-step process for transforming dull, forgettable and un-engaging presentations into your most Powerful Presentations yet: inspirational, memorable and persuasive.
It’s full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your leadership talks and presentations, including:
Download your free copy of our Five Steps to Improve your Leadership Talks ebook now.
Benjamin Ball runs Benjamin Ball Associates, one of the London’s leading presentation training firms. BBA specialises in helping executives improve how they pitch, present and persuade. benjaminball.com
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