The fear of speaking in public is well-documented, often discussed, and probably overrated. The great news is that speaking in front of a group can be an entertaining and energizing experience for even the most fearsome among us.
Try these ideas to enjoy speaking and to sharpen your delivery:
1. Don???t ???give a speech??? -- have a conversation. Thinking about ???delivering a speech??? sounds nerve-racking. Think about the difference between saying ???I have to give a speech,??? as opposed to saying, ???I???m talking to people.??? You may not give speeches all the time, but you do ???talk to people??? all the time! If you do actually have a conversation, you???ll sound more natural and more interesting.
2. Read your ideas into a tape recorder. Having trouble sitting down to write your speech? Try reading your initial thoughts into a tape recorder. Don???t edit as you speak or worry about how you???re phrasing things. Just talk about your ideas. When you???re done, go back and transcribe your thoughts. You???ll sound much more natural than if you sit down and try to ???write??? a speech.
3. Do a quick evaluation. After your talk, review how you think it went and why. Remember that not all the factors influencing your talk are within your control. For example, dinner audiences are often harder to speak to, because they may be drinking alcohol and they???re often tired after a long day. Some people think they???re not good speakers, when the truth is they were speaking in a room with terrible sound qualities, or the audience is angry over something else, etc
4. Remember: Progress, not perfection. Don???t worry about becoming the world???s best speaker. Just try to feel a bit more confident each time you talk.
5. Write 1 objective for the talk. What do you want or need it to accomplish? Do you need to persuade them to vote your way? Are you simply delivering information? Cutting it down to the basics will help you feel less overwhelmed. If you achieve that objective, the speech is a success, no matter how many other things you may wish to have changed in retrospect.
6. Avoid topics that don???t move you. Many people do not enjoy speaking because they don???t enjoy the topic they???re asked to address. In some situations (at work, for instance) you may not be able to avoid speaking on a particular issue. In other circumstances, though, if you really, really don???t want to talk about a topic, you should really, really try not to do. If it???s not something you can feel enthusiastic in discussing, it???s going to be a tough sell to get the audience energized about it.
7. Have fun with it. Speaking in front of any group, on any topic, is a great honor -- it means that what you have to say is so important that people want to hear it.
8. Realize that the audience is rooting for you. Unless you???re in a hostile situation (discussing a controversial issue, for instance) the audience wants you do to well. It???s not fun to watch a struggling or boring speaker. The audience wants to learn from you, and they want you to have fun. They???re on your side.
9. Take care of yourself. It???s hard to be energetic and enthusiastic when you don???t feel well. Get enough rest, eat well, drink water and exercise to give yourself the fuel you need to speak well.
10. Remember: You???re not the first. Whatever ???dumb??? or embarrassing mistake you make or fear is lurking on the horizon, someone else has already made it and lived through it.
Someone has already survived:
1) realizing after the talk that their pants were unzipped
2) going to the restroom and forgetting to turn off the cordless microphone they were using
3) leaving a drycleaning tag on their suit jacket cuffs
4) falling down while speaking
5) stumbling over words
6) forgetting what they were about to say
7) having their skirt get caught in the back of their panty hose, exposing their back side a little more than they would wish
8) infinite problems with slides, lighting, etc.
9) leaving a price tag on a new pair of pants
You name it, it???s already happened! In fact, mistakes often endear you to the audience, because it???s a good reminder that we???re all human.
The best part about having something go wrong? It makes you stronger at staying calm! Figure out how to fix it the next time, have a good laugh about it, and move on (and remember to write it down, because ???screw-ups??? often make great anecdotes for your next talk).
Shari Peace is an international speaker, an author, and the president of Peace Talks, a training and consulting firm. Her book, Crank It Out! How to Get More Done ??" At Work & In Your Life!, features tips for effectively managing time and boosting productivity. She can be reached at http://www.sharipeace.com