Second to spiders, public speaking is something that most of us fear greatly. Your palms get sweaty, your voice shakes and your heart acts as though it’s twelve miles into a marathon. While the actual fear of standing up in front of a room to speak is not one that you can get over overnight, there are a few strategies we wanted to share with you to help you become a more effective public speaker when the time comes. After all, being a successful public speaker is essential for anyone who is or aspires to be a strong leader and that means you!
Know the Point
Before you even start writing your speech you should know what the purpose of it is. Much like JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book knowing how the seventh would end (#hogwartsforlife), you too need to know what journey you plan to take your listeners on. What key points do you want them to walk away with? How should listening to your speech make them feel? And what is the value in what you are saying? If you know the end before you even start the beginning, you are far more likely to deliver a cohesive meaningful message.
Cadence is Key
Unfortunately, we don’t all have the majestic voice of Morgan Freeman, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to deliver your entire speech at a rapid speed without breathing OR say your speech in one monotonous slumbersome tone. It’s not just about what you’re saying that matters, it’s how you say it that keeps your audience captivated and interested. Practice your speech aloud, take note of what areas seems to drag on, what dense pieces need to be lightened up, and even where you need to take breaks simply to catch your breath. If you find a certain example or paragraph is boring to read aloud to yourself, it likely is also boring to listen to from your audience’s perspective.
Strategically Placed Sounds
This goes hand-in-hand with the cadence of your speech. Strategically placed sounds act as cues for your audience, informing them what parts are serious, funny, and where they are allowed to have some kind of reaction. The same way that a presidential candidate pauses for effect to evoke applause from their audience, you too need to pinpoint where in your speech you are asking your listeners to feel something. This can be a genuine deep breath that breaks up a more emotional section allowing you to gather yourself, while also allowing your audience to think about the gravity of what you just told them. Or a strong exciting pause after an exclamation point where you signal your audience to cheer or clap in agreeance with your statement. Naturally in life we say a lot without having to say any words at all, be sure to carry this practice over to your speech in a genuine way.
Being connected to your audience is the most important rule in public speaking.
Always know what your audience is feeling. If you cannot tell me how your audience should feel at the beginning, middle and end of your speech than you are not going to be as impactful as you wish to be. Being connected to your audience throughout your entire speech is the most important rule in public speaking. This does not always mean that they have to love what you talking about or even agree with your point of view. As long as you are mindfully aware of the way they are feeling throughout your speech you will affect them in some way. Think about the speeches you have heard that really stuck with you long after the final applause. These are the speeches that moved you in some way emotionally. Whether they filled you with hope, made you question something deeply or angered you, they are all speeches that connected with you in an emotional way. Know what you want your audience to feel about what you are saying, then find the words to evoke said emotions.
Honest and Personal
We can all sniff out a liar a million miles away. We can all tell when someone is putting on a show, flashing crocodile tears, or holding back the full truth. If you want your audience to be vulnerable with you and truly let you in than you have to be vulnerable with them. Make sure that your speech is honest and personal. No matter what topic you are speaking on if you do not make a personal connection to it on stage your audience will not make a connection to it either. This does not mean you need to cry, yell or force any emotions at all, it just means that you need to put yourself into your speech in a real and relatable way.