Sharks, the dark, and talking in front of people. What do these all have in common?
They are all things the majority of people list as their greatest fears.
But since you won’t be running into any sharks in the office anytime soon (unless you somehow find yourself on NBC’s Shark Tank) let’s focus on that last one: public speaking.
As a business leader, there’s no getting around speaking to groups of people. Whether you’re leading a team meeting, presenting to an important client, or keynoting a major industry conference, these tips will help you come across as the cool, calm, collected expert that you are.
1. Understand why public speaking makes you nervous.
What is it about speaking in front of an audience that makes us all a little queasy?
You’re not going to solve your leaking roof problem if you don’t know where the leak is coming from. The same goes for public speaking. Once you get to the root of what scares you most about public speaking, you’ll be able to tackle it.
Take a minute and think about your reasons for being nervous about speaking in front of a group. So you know you’re not alone, here are a few I hear frequently:
- All those people are looking at me
- I might make a mistake
- I have to be smart/funny/insightful/inspiring
You are only going to get better if you practice. Take every opportunity to practice speaking: from talking to your cashier to someone new at a party or even with friends and family.
You may think that just sounds a lot like talking, something I do every day. And you’re right!
There really isn’t a difference between public speaking and conversation—it’s all communication!
Here are three specific things to practice. They’ll enhance your point and make you come across as knowledgeable and confident, whether you’re speaking to 1 person or 100 people.
- Strong eye-contact. Making eye contact is engaging and draws the other person into the conversation with you. You’re not going for a staring contest. Holding eye contact too long can dial the creepy factor up to 11. Four to five seconds at a time is what you’re going for.
- Slow down. We always speed up when we’re nervous, so learn how to take a deep breath and slow down! You’re going for an average pace of 100 to 125 words per minute. Also, pause. Especially after an important point. A few seconds of silence will feel like an eternity to you, but it will feel natural to the audience and give them time to absorb what you’re saying.
- Inflection. Vary the pitch, tone, and volume of your voice to emphasize the points you are making. Speaking in a monotone is a sure way to fade into the background noise quickly.
I promise, if you practice the art of conversation often enough, a big presentation or networking event will feel just as natural as a conversation over coffee.
Like a seasoned football coach, check the replay!
Try filming yourself giving a quick five-minute speech or presentation. It might feel strange, but trust me, seeing is believing when it comes to accurately judging our effectiveness. When we watch ourselves, we are able to see what our audience is seeing.
Your “nervous tells” that make you come across as less assured or any “filler” words you over-use (“um,” “yeah,” “like,” etc.) will all be revealed in the footage.
While this isn’t always the most fun exercise, it will help you see where you can improve some of your public speaking habits. So pop some popcorn and remember to be not too hard on yourself!
4. Monitor Posture
A lot of confidence comes from body language.
Make sure you assess your posture as you give any talk or speech. Rounded shoulders, weak eye contact, and too much fidgeting give off signals that you are unsure about what you’re saying.
Remember what your mother told you and stand-up straight! It’s such a simple correction, but when you utilize “power poses” you will come across as more informed and approachable.
5. Take a class or join a club
Toastmasters exists for the sole purpose of helping people be better public speakers. There are chapters everywhere and should be your first stop if you decide to get serious about upping your speaking game.
Improv comedy or acting classes are also a great way to challenge yourself to get out of your shell.
And bonus - they are fun! We rarely allow ourselves time to be silly. Classes like this can get you back to your imaginative and creative roots. Plus, they will give you invaluable critical thinking and teamwork skills that you will directly translate into your public speaking.
If that seems like too much, you can always try a club organized around a subject that interests you - like a book club or fitness club. This will put you in a space that you feel inspired by and will be more likely to converse with those around you.
When you’re ready to put these and other great tips to use and enhance your business, reach out. We would love to help you become the best leader you can be!
If you are having trouble knowing exactly where your business should be going or what you need to make your journey successful, we can help!
Book a free 1-hour Breakthrough Consultation with us.