I love public speaking, despite the fact that it scares the crap out of me! There’s something about the ego-boosting thrill of being able to speak your mind to a captive audience, sharing your own unique vision of the truth with people who are listening. And in all humility, I’m pretty good at it, but this was not always the case.
I remember speeches for school assignments, shaking like a leaf while time simultaneously flew past and dragged its feet. It seemed like no matter how many times I practiced my speech, I would fall apart on game day. Often from the perspective of others it went OK, but in my mind I was a complete mess.
But over time I have been exposed to many public speaking opportunities and learned a lot of confidence-building techniques along the way. Through these experiences I have designed a strategy that works really well to prepare for public speaking, make sure you deliver well, and actually enjoy the experience.
So these tips are for those of you who want to market their business through oratory methods. Public speaking is any type of verbal presentation to a group of about three or more, and for this article it’s particularly specific to a public speaking event which you feel anxious or intimidated about.
3 Effective Strategies For Public Speaking
1. Prepare but don’t script
Trying to remember an entire script may seem like a safe option, but it’s actually a trap. Your brain will remember how each line/sentence links with others, which means if you forget any or trip up, there will be a complete blank in your mind. If the bridge from one part to another gets lost, so do you.
A safer option is actually to learn the material well and then simply speak off the top of your head. Of course, this should be done in a structured way so you don’t just ramble on. I recommend bullet point-type prompts. So try using cue-cards points or a minimalist Powerpoint presentation rather than a full script. Set a timeframe for each point using a timer application of some sort, then practice free-styling and cutting it down to the key information. You’ll be much better prepared on the day for any brain-freezes or other distractions.
This will also develop your longer-term skill of freestyle talking, which always comes across as far more genuine and charismatic. This kind of delivery sells a darn sight better than prepared pitches.
Mindfulness meditation is simply a great way to remove anxiety. Have you noticed how you can know a speech inside and out and yet on the Big Day you can’t remember a word? This is not a memory issue, this is anxiety shutting off pathways in your brain in order to inappropriately prepare for fight or flight. Most of the time, if you know your topic well you can completely make up a speech on the spot from scratch, as long as you’re completely calm. A calm mind is also a creative and confident mind!
Research a Mindfulness meditation exercise and start doing this daily. It can be as quick as five minutes. Particularly do it on the morning of the day. It will help you release anxiety (which only exists in the future – worrying about potential outcomes) and will also train your mind over time to stay in the present. If you think meditation is just some sort of hippy-spiritual thing, get over it! Mindfulness has a strong backing from psychological neuroscience research and is quickly becoming the key insight of our time regarding productivity and success.
3. Stay focused by getting into the right state of mind
On the day of the event and in the days leading up to it, you will be at your most anxious. One way to practice mindfulness in everyday life includes making sure you are focused on present-time activities. So particularly on the day of the event, make sure you don’t sit around fretting about how it’s going to go.
The absolute best way you can avoid this is to socialise constantly! Public speaking is really nothing more complicated than talking to people. So make sure you talk to as many people as you can in the time leading up to your presentation. This may mean waiting ‘back-stage’ and talking to other speakers, or it might simply be ‘working the room’ before you go on.
This will make sure your mind is in a ‘social state’. The pathways in your cerebral cortex that are most closely linked with speaking, creativity, humour and body-language will get warmed up, quite literally. Then, when you get up on stage (or stand up at the meeting etc.) you will simply be continuing to speak. Going in from cold, such as being quiet and introspective before you speak, is an unpleasant comfort-zone breach for your brain and will create anxiety. It’s much better to take the time to build up a socialising momentum prior to delivering your presentation.
The more of your audience you can talk to before-hand, the more people you will be able to identify during your presentation as allies rather than strangers. You can focus your eye-contact on these people and in doing so will feel much more comfortable – like you’re just chatting with friends rather than presenting to a crowd.
Stay in the moment during the presentation itself as well as mindfulness preparation beforehand. Worrying about how it’s going is not the same as being in the present. It’s still worrying about the future, i.e. wondering what people will think about the presentation afterwards. Take your time, consciously try to enjoy the experience, rather than trying to get it over with.
“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” - John Ford
I hope all this helps you out with your next big presentation, please comment below with your experiences.
Public speaking is recognised as one of the most common phobias people have, and often people are more afraid of it than death itself! That means using strategies to conquer this fear will make tackling other fears so much less intimidating. It’s like the big-game hunting of self-development!