Public speaking is one of the best ways to market yourself or your business. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, interact with your target audiences, and generate valuable leads. Furthermore, many events will pay speaker fees and offer promotional supports free of charge. However, public speaking doesn’t come naturally to many people.
“Look your audience straight in the eyes, and begin to talk as if every one of them owed you money” – Dale Carnegie
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that kind of grit when put on the spot. It’s completely normal to feel anxious when speaking under the spotlight to a room full of strangers. Your self-consciousness skyrockets during this one-sided conversation when everyone is focused on your every move and word. The good thing is there are things you can do to manage this fear and maybe even have fun while you’re in front of an audience.
Understand the audience
One reason people are nervous is not knowing what to expect from the audience. When preparing your speech, think about the types of people to whom you’ll be speaking. Their age, background, profession, and affiliation will impact the language you use and the way you deliver. What are they hoping to get from your speech? What kind of questions might they have? Understanding your audience will minimize the unknown and help you conquer the unpredictable.
Practice, practice, practice
Practice makes perfect. The more you know your material, the more comfortable you’ll be. If you’re not a natural orator, memorize your speech. Practice it every opportunity you get until it flows naturally. Recite it in front of the mirror, family, and friends, or run through it in your head anytime, anywhere. Put yourself on the spot by video-taping yourself. That little recording red light does wonders to build your confidence for the real deal.
Engage with your audience members before you speak. This will trick your mind into believing you’re speaking to your friends. Take a few deep breaths and stretch out your body backstage to calm your racing heartbeat. Let go of negative assumptions while you’re speaking. Just because the audiences aren’t smiling or nodding doesn’t mean they aren’t listening or feeling positively about your speech. Remember that they’re there because what you’re saying is valuable to them. Projecting your voice and adopting a power pose (such as stretching out your arms) will also boost confidence as you speak. You can mask your anxiety with your body language. Rest your hands on the podium, nod, and look around the room to appear poised and confident.
Finally, remember that you agreed to speak because you care deeply about your topic. Connect with your audiences by making eye contacts, sharing personal stories, and focusing on your message. Speak passionately about your topic and demonstrate your sincerity with your body language and facial expressions. Before you know it, the presentation will be over.
Speaking to the public about subjects that are important to you is extremely rewarding. Even if you don’t plan to give speeches often, public speaking is a useful skill to have. It will improve your communication skills and help you during negotiations and interviews.
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