Public Speaking With Confidence
Let me start this blog by saying I am not and do not pretend to be an expert at public speaking. It scares me. It intimidates me. And often, it stresses me out. But that’s exactly why I like to do it. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that we should all “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Public speaking is my one thing – and I think it should count for multiple days! That’s the point of this article, to offer ways that you can feel prepared and ready to stand up in front of a crowd, sharing your ideas, and not feeling too stressed.
BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE THE EXPERT
We have all heard of “imposter’s syndrome,” the idea that somehow, despite years of experience in a field, we are not the expert the world thinks we are. I believe that this is the root of public speaking anxiety. So many times, when I’m about to speak in front of a group, I wonder if someone will call me out with a question that I can’t answer. Or, even worse, I worry that I’ll speak for 10 minutes of my allotted hour and run out of things to say! Of course, this never actually happens. I find that I enjoy questions from the audience and have realized that, in general, the audience is not out to make me look bad, they are simply curious about my opinion. And in terms of running out of things to say, that never actually happens. What usually happens is I realize that I’m 45 minutes through my allotted time and only half way through my presentation. Then I have to put my speech in high gear for the last 15 minutes! The fear and anxiety that I felt about those two things was unwarranted and a waste of energy.
PREPARE WITH FRIENDS
So how do we go into a presentation feeling confident? Of course, the number one thing is to prepare. Think of the two or three main points you want your audience to learn from you and focus on those things. Don’t let yourself go too far into the weeds, but rather, work on the big messages. Define what you want your audience to learn by listening to you and then make sure everything you prepare maps back to that set of messages. Don’t be afraid to ask the audience questions. I have often found that if I come up with a thesis or theme first, and then skip to the conclusion, takeaway and/or call to action, the middle of the speech will become clearer to me. Practicing in front of people you are comfortable receiving criticism from is also helpful. Have your practice audience of one or two people listen to you rehearse, take notes on details, and then ask them what they got from your message. If their takeaway is close to what you envisioned, you are on the right path. If it’s not, then take the time to share the point of the speech with them and work together to see where you got off track. A presentation is a puzzle that is more easily put together with a team.
VISUALS SHOULD COMPLIMENT, NOT COMPETE
One big mistake that I often see presenters make is to put too many words on their slides (if you are using slides) and read almost every word. Don’t make this mistake. It takes away from your credibility and bores your audience. I have been told that if you show it, you don’t have to say it, and if you say it, you don’t have to show it. Try to design visuals that support your message, not repeat it. Your slides should be simple, digestible and complimentary to what you are saying. Ultimately, you should be able to look at a bulleted list of key points and speak to each one without much detail on the visuals. Being able to do this will mean that you are truly prepared and not relying on the slides too much. Also, using visuals that surprise your audience can be powerful. For example, if you are giving a speech about transportation and traffic patterns, what if you used aerial shots of animal migration to illustrate your points? That small amount of unexpectedness forces your audience to engage more with you by making connections. The video below outlines four do and don’ts of PowerPoint and can help you narrow down your visual information.
BE CONFIDENT AND HAVE FUN
Ultimately, if you think about the presenters and presentations that you enjoy the most, they are typically from people who look like they are having fun during the speech. People who seem confident are more believable. But don’t confuse confidence with arrogance – audiences are immediately turned off if someone comes across as arrogant or self-absorbed. Having confidence means that you have prepared, understand the topic, and truly want to share your knowledge with the audience. While this confidence is delivered on the stage, it begins on paper (or your computer screen) as you prepare. The right amount of preparation will bring a level of confidence to the entire process. Joy is contagious. So, trade your bundle of nerves for a bundle of joy as you stand up and do your scary thing of the day!
How do you combat normal terrors of public speaking? We would love to hear your tips on how to tackle the common fear or public speaking. Post below!