Public speaking isn’t a skill we’re all born with and standing up in front of groups bigger than ten people, to share words of wisdom from your own mouth can be somewhat daunting. Sometimes it comes with the territory of whatever it is we’re doing. Whether its leading a team at work, sharing a presentation, pitching to investors or telling your brand story, the sheer thought of it can keep you up at night. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be as painful as you think it is.
Before the talk:
Seems obvious, right? Wrong. It’s amazing how many people under prepare for a role which has them standing up in front of an audience. Look at the brief, see how long you’re permitted to stand and talk and time yourself beforehand. Finishing ten minutes early can make things somewhat awkward for you, so consider adding elements to your talk that would take up some time. For example, a short film to break it up or audience interaction that involves them doing an activity.
Talk to your host/advisor
When you’re public speaking, unless you’re a politician- no one is looking to catch you out and make you look stupid by asking you impossible questions. Talk to the moderator beforehand and ask them if there will be any questions that perhaps you should research more into. It just shows initiative. Likewise, if there is a topical event happening in the news, it’s always wise to read up to it. If someone does decide to ask how that particular current affairs topic might affect whatever it is you’re talking about, you’ll thankfully know what they are referring to…
The talk Itself
Calm and Confident
It’s hard to be calm and confident in front of an audience, when you would rather be anywhere but there, but confidence is key when delivering a speech. If you’re feeling nervous then let the audience know when you stand up, as there is absolutely no shame in being nervous- kudos to you for being honest! Taking deep breaths before you start and remembering to deliver your talk slowly, so your words don’t get gabbled up quickly and lost in translation is also essential.
Connect with your audience
If you can bear it, holding eye contact with members of the audience as you deliver valuable points shows you’re engaging with them and will add emphasis to what you’re saying, rather than staring at a blank space at the back of the room.
‘Does anyone have any questions?’ Dead-pan-silence. A speaker’s worst fear! If you know a single soul in the audience, plant a question with them that you know you can answer. It will also encourage more questions from audience members who didn’t want to raise their hands first.
After the talk
Integrate with both your audience and your panel once it’s all over. You never know who was watching or who you can connect with ‘once it’s all over!’.
If you find public speaking hard and it really is causing you anxiety, speak to someone. Find a coach or a mentor who can guide and support you. However, if you fear that this is something you cannot bring yourself to do, without really suffering mentally, then look at alternative options. A colleague you can co-present alongside, a co-founder who perhaps may take over more of the ‘comm’s’ side of things, whilst you prefer being behind the scenes. There are options- don’t feel trapped by public speaking, but also remind yourself that public speaking is something that gets progressively easier the more of them you do (as much as it may pain you to hear it!).