Are you a speaker that writes or a writer that speaks? That’s an interesting question because I don’t quite know where I fall. Right now, I am a writer that speaks. I definitely do more writing than public speaking. But one day I feel like I want to be a speaker that writes.
Problem is, I’m so DAMN nervous.
The thought of public speaking scares me. My palms sweat, my vision goes blurry and I forget everything I want to say. But regardless, I suck it up. I have to speak to improve. Repetition solves all problems.
"Speech is power: Speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel" -Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, this is what works for me.
DAYS/WEEKS BEFORE THE PRESENTATION
A) Know Your Sh!t
I have done a lot of presentations for school. Most of the time I don’t know what I am saying. Mostly because I don't have knowledge of the topic and partly because I'm nervous and ramble.
But In order to present properly, you need to have a thorough understanding of your topic. It is essential.
The best way to sound like you know what you are talking about, is to know what you are talking about.
Don’t try and memorize a script, word for word. For me that just doesn’t work. I used to memorize everything, but the nerves would kick in and I’d lose myself.
Instead, I started memorizing an order of key words/phrases/topics. Queues that will help myself remember everything about the topic. For example: If I am presenting a topic on anger, I will memorize topics like, ‘it’s not worth your time,’ and ‘focusing on yourself.’ This helps me remember everything in that topic and in sequential order.
This also means no cue cards/pieces of paper. If you completely know your content, just remember the topics and have a conversation with the audience.
NIGHT BEFORE THE PRESENTATION
B) Count Your Sheep
I lay in bed the night before, sleepless. My brain is contemplating all the “what if” questions and possible terrible scenarios. Sleep is an arduous task.
Sleep is important the night before because it will keep you sharp and prepared. Adequate sleep helps with memory and creativity.
Don’t stare at your clock and count down the time till you have to present. This will just stress you out. Set your alarm and avoid the clock.
Make your sleep space a technology-free zone a hour before bed. Avoiding blue light (cellphones, television, laptops, etc.) will help you sleep. Lastly, try not to worry.
Easier Said Than Done.
But worrying about it will not make you feel better. Instead, think about how awesome you will feel after overcoming that public speaking behemoth.
THE BIG DAY
C) Bust A Move And Some Frequent Noise
Body language conveys a strong message to the audience. This includes good posture, eye contact and speaking clearly and loudly.
You can command the audience with body language. It starts with posture. Standing up, back straight and shoulders back conveys a stronger message than slouched over. Also, the use of hand gestures will attract the audience and keep them stimulated. I use hand gestures because I feel like the audience is staring at my hands and not at my nervous eyes.
Eye contact is integral to strong presentations. In my opinion, staring at the back of the room is not effective. The audience can see you staring at the back of the room. I aim for a middle ground between frantically darting my eyes around the room and staring at one person, weirdly.
Lastly, exercise those vocal chords! Speaking loudly and clearly will compel the audience to look at you. You need to grab their attention and using your loud voice is a strong way to do it. Contrary to popular belief, using frequent pauses in your speech is very effective. It allows the audience to soak in what was just said, allows you think (briefly) about your next point and makes the audience feel like you are really putting thought in to your speech.
"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech" - Martin F. Tupper
In my experience, I’ve discovered that even if you are nervous, feigning strong body language will have the audience on their feet.
D) Go On With Your Vulnerable Self
Sex is a very vulnerable act. Two people (or one!) are both naked and unguarded. Everything is taken at face value.
That weird black spot on your stomach or perhaps a third nipple can all be seen. What’s better than you being vulnerable while presenting? That’s right, the audience being vulnerable as well.
Imagining them having sex makes my brain think that being vulnerable is the fad. Go on, everyone is doing it. Being vulnerable isn’t that bad. But, at least they’re not picturing me naked.
Vulnerability is all in your head.
E) Frog in Your Throat?
I always have a water bottle with me while speaking. Having water handy during a presentation is a must. It helps your voice stay natural and when used appropriately, gives you the ability to pause and think about your next topic.
So there you have it. Public speaking isn’t as hard as you or I think. It is a matter of wrapping your head around some principles that will make it easier.
Next time you have to present, I urge you to take into consideration these thoughts. Before you know it, you’ll be over your fear of public speaking. Until then, take comfort in the fact that 80% of people have fears of speaking in public.
I know, I will but improvement is on the horizon for you and I.