Few of us can claim to be Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King when it comes to public speaking. Doing so requires skill, self confidence and a shedding of one’s inhibition. If you’ve got no choice but to deliver a speech of some sort and are absolutely dreading it, I’ve got some good news.
You can absolutely nail this. Anyone can.
How do I know? Because, just like you, I’m not one for standing up in front of people and talking. And we’re not alone – it really isn’t what we’re designed to do; public speaking is an entirely unnatural process.
However, just like anything in life, we’re all capable of delivering an engaging, heart-felt public speech. I’ve managed to shed the fear that was crippling my performance and, in this post, I’d like to share with you how I prepare each and every time I’m asked to deliver a public speech.
I remind myself that perfection isn’t important
No one expects perfect delivery when you take to the podium. With that in mind, you don’t need to follow the Aristotle guide to communication to get your option across. You just need belief in what you’re saying, the ability to speak clearly, zero waffle and a good dose of passion.
Your audience will find the odd mistake or stumble endearing, so don’t strive for perfection.
I don’t shy way from ad-libbing
One of the worst things you can do prior to a speech is write down exactly what you want to say, word for word. And this may sound rather odd, because the process of ‘writing a speech’ suggests you should do exactly that.
In my experience, it is far better to construct a beginning, middle and end with the salient points you want to make highlighted for easy reference. Delivering an entire speech from paper isn’t particularly exciting for the audience, and it can be rather counterintuitive, often leading to mistakes when you’re at the podium.
I don’t over-rehearse
When I first started speaking in public, I spent forever practicing while going about my daily life, whether it be in front of the mirror, while making my breakfast or en route to the venue. As it turned out, this was a bad idea.
Practice is vital, but over-rehearsing will only make you more nervous and, when the time comes to stand up in front of your audience, you’ll be so obsessed with delivering the brilliant version you performed in the shower that morning that you’ll inevitably make mistakes.
I anticipate questions
Sometimes, the scariest part of public speaking is dealing with the unexpected. Such occurrences usually come in the form of questions following the speech, so it makes sense to arrive pre-armed with some responses to questions you’re likely to receive. You can’t account for every eventuality, but consider the most obvious and make notes you can quickly refer to.
I don’t lean on PowerPoint
People, generally, hate PowerPoint presentations – let’s get that straight. The best are the ones with the fewest slides, but even then, a deluge of on-screen information only detracts from the speaker. If you’re nervous about being in the spotlight, you may want to do that, but in doing so you’ll probably lose your audience.
Using presentations during a speech also introduces a technical element that can all too easily go wrong. Don’t give yourself too much to do – rely on your words and your words only.
I hope the above helps during the planning of your next speech. You can do it – we all can. Just remember that most people in the room will be rooting for you – everyone knows how hard it is to get up and talk in front of people, after all.
Best of luck in learning one of life’s most important skills!