Public speaking is important in both the professional and personal life of every individual. There are many benefits to public speaking, whether you are an individual or a company. Personally, I had the opportunity to be a TEDx speaker, and for me it was an opportunity to practice my public speaking skills.
However, you’ve probably heard that for some people public speaking is more feared than death itself. The vast majority of individuals rate fear of public speaking as number one – 75% according to the National Institute of Mental Health in America. For some people, this means fear of speaking in large groups. For others, it means talking to even one person if that person has the power to evaluate you, in the case of a manager, teacher, etc.
Public speaking shouldn’t make anyone feel stressed or ill. It should be an opportunity to master the limelight and/or express your point of view.
Truth vs. myth about public speaking
Most people, faced with a real choice between speaking and death, would choose to speak. Does public speaking mean that fear number one is a myth? Maybe partially, but you’ll understand where the association comes from.
Anxiety tells your brain it’s trying to keep you safe. When you want to speak in public, the anxiety voice sounds something like this: “People won’t be interested in what I have to say. I have nothing to offer this group, the public. If I’m wrong, they’ll laugh at me. I’m not competent. I’m not very good.”
What’s the worst that can happen? The group won’t like me, I’ll be rejected, I’ll be excluded. You can rationalise the idea. You can tell yourself that this group probably won’t like you and that you don’t really care if they do.
But the need to be accepted by our peers goes back further than our childhood. We have evolved as a species to belong to groups.
We’re not the fiercest mammals on the planet so we had to band together to survive. Exile has often meant death. So maybe what we really fear is being excluded and in our minds we equate that with death, even worse.
What is public speaking?
Public speaking, also called oratory, has traditionally meant the act of speaking in front of a live audience. Today it includes any form of speech (formal and informal) to an audience, including pre-recorded speeches transmitted via technology.
Confucius, one of the experts associated with public speaking, once said that if a speech were considered a good one, it would have an impact on individuals’ lives whether people listened to it directly or not. His point was that the actions and words of someone with power can influence the world.
Public speaking is used for different purposes, but is usually found in the area of teaching, entertaining or persuading.
Why practice public speaking?
Here are five reasons why practicing public speaking should be a priority for you:
Takes you out of your comfort zone
Public speaking attracts opportunities
It takes someone with your expertise to lead your presentation in a meeting with an important client. It takes a demonstration at an event of what your brand does. A radio or TV station wants to feature a story of yours. These opportunities come into our sights all the time, but how often was your instant reaction like: “How do I get out of this?”, “What excuse can I find not to do this?”. Opportunities always arise in the public speaking area, so be open to them.
Public speaking can change your mindset
Changing your mindset over time from “I can’t do this” to “I can and will” can be done when you set small, achievable and manageable public speaking goals. You’ll be making progress before you know it. You can practise public speaking by giving a short presentation in front of your work team or even a group of friends. Then try it with larger groups, perhaps at a family event. Small steps often lead to big changes over time.
Public speaking builds confidence
If you generally lack confidence, know that public speaking, no matter how big or small, creates an aura of competence, poise and power after you deliver it. And that confidence can later transfer to other aspects of everyday life that are not necessarily related to communication or public speaking. You will feel more confident and positive.
Public speaking takes you out of your comfort zone
“Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” Public speaking takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you discover skills you probably didn’t know you had. Imagine having no boundaries holding you back from public speaking. How much success and joy would you have in life? You probably wouldn’t recognize yourself. So step out of your comfort zone to discover your true potential.
Public speaking inspires others
There is no one in the world who has your unique combination of experience and skills. How special are you? Everyone wants to hear from you! There’s a reason why TED Talks are so popular, because ordinary people, like you and me, share great ideas, but told in a way that resonates and that we understand. I invite you to listen to my TEDx talk here. As well as podcasts or TV, radio shows such as those in the “Conversations with Oana” series. We are all fascinated by these people and what they have to share. Let your stories and experience be told because the world is waiting for them. 🙂
How do you prepare before public speaking?
Public speaking is a skill. And you can learn any skill. Anyone can learn to be a better public speaker. It just takes some know-how and effort.
How to speak in public? To become a better public speaker keep these three criteria in mind:
Write your speech
Practice your speech
Deliver the speech
Write an effective speech
The first thing you will need to do is work on writing a well-organised and engaging speech. Because even a great voice or charisma isn’t enough if your material isn’t good.
Every speech has an Introduction, a Table of Contents and an Conclusion.
A strong introduction is crucial
It is recommended to capture the audience’s attention with something impactful. You can start with a clear statement of the idea, something the audience might think about and then link to your idea/topic or you can start with something surprising (new facts or an extraordinary statement).
Get to your topic or idea as soon as possible. Avoid focusing too much on yourself. Avoid starting with a series of statistics.
The table of contents includes an introduction to the topic
Create a list of all the ideas you want to present. Think about which ones your audience already knows and which ones you need to convince them of.
Sort all the ideas into a list so that you start with what people need to understand before you get to the next point, and from “worthless” to “compelling”. Now delete anything you can delete without giving up the integrity of your argument. You might delete things you think are important.
Consider making this list with a friend, someone who is not an expert in your field.
Spend a lot of time on new ideas, and if the audience needs to be reminded of old or common ideas, keep it brief.
Use practical examples and avoid using too much jargon or explaining new terminology.
Avoid letting quotes interrupt your explanation and keep them after you have made your point or display them at the end of your slides.
In your slides note down anything in your script that can best be presented visually and adapt them according to your ideas.
The ending is also very important
Find an exit point in your conclusion that leaves the audience with a positive attitude about the success of implementing your idea/solution. Avoid using the conclusion to summarise the ideas communicated, but rather, tell your audience how your idea can impact their life/work.
Always, at the end of your speech, say: Thank you! 🙂
Practice your speech
Practice! Practice! Practice!… And practice again!
Even if you’re not afraid of public speaking, practice helps you deliver a more effective speech. If you’re in a hurry, you may be tempted to skip practicing your speech to save time. But practising your speech improves your public speaking skills. It also increases your familiarity with the presentation. So your speech can be delivered with more ease and confidence.
Hold your speech
You have written a good speech. You feel more confident in delivering your public speech and you have practised. Preparation without action has no real value. Plus, action keeps you motivated to go ahead and practice public speaking when you see the end result.
How do you overcome the fear of public speaking?
Fear of public speaking is very real and can block you if you let it. Fortunately, there are a few public speaking techniques that help manage public speaking fear. It also helps you become more confident:
Before you learn to walk the marathon, practice with an easy choice. The same goes for public speaking. Start with shorter speeches.
Choose a familiar location, you’ll feel more comfortable making a presentation there.
Know your subject well so you won’t be taken by surprise by a question from the audience.
If you have this option, choose a topic you are passionate about. You’ll have fewer or no nerves if you talk about something you love or are passionate about.
Organise your speech. Don’t leave the success of your presentation to chance. Plan it carefully.
Practice your speech. Practice really is the mother of learning sometimes.
Encourage yourself. Saying words of encouragement to yourself helps you feel more confident.
Your mistakes in your speech are not obvious to others. No one in the room knows what your original speech was like or everything you wanted to convey.
Watch others who give speeches to learn from them, but also look for your own style when speaking in public.
Know your audience before you speak so you know how to prepare your speech and how to connect with them.
Be authentic and tell the truth when delivering a speech, otherwise you will most likely not feel comfortable when you have to speak.
Be fair and gentle with yourself. You probably fear public speaking and the fact that you might be a perfectionist and your biggest critic. Be gentle with yourself and think about how many interesting and important things you are depriving those around you of because you are not sharing your knowledge at the current level it is at.
And last but not least, smile. Smiling has a positive effect on your attitude, it lowers stress, helps you be more confident and in addition people will be more receptive to your message when they see a friendly face. 🙂
How do you relax when you have to speak in public?
For me public speaking is always an opportunity to practice, to apply what I have learned so far, to see what I can improve in the future. It gives me the opportunity to grow and develop. I’ll leave you with some of the techniques I apply personally:
I always take a break before speaking in public online or offline. I do something that I enjoy or relaxes me. For example: listen to a song, watch a funny show, read, take a walk, etc.
I do meditation to clear my mind and calm my agitation through breathing. There are different breathing techniques, but I most often use 4 – 4 – 4. I breathe in, hold my breath and breathe out each time counting to 4.
I also have mantras that I sometimes use to encourage myself if negative thoughts come up about myself: “Today I am better than yesterday and tomorrow I will be better than today.” Or “I am the best version of myself at my current level of awareness.”
You can also play around when you practice different ways to speak in public more easily. You’ll have fun and relax at the same time. Here are some exercise suggestions:
The expert in anything
You will need to find a friend or colleague for this exercise. Choose a topic you don’t know much about. Ask your friend/colleague to interview you on this topic and ask you as many questions as possible. You will answer each time as if you were the best expert in the field. This will help you with the delivery of your speech, as well as with your confidence and trust. It will also help you get through uncertain situations that may arise and you don’t know exactly what to say.
He loves me, he loves me not
Enthusiasm is contagious. If you want your audience to be excited about your topic, then you need to show enthusiasm for it. Choose an object that you are indifferent to or don’t like at all (for example: an object in your home or office). Then practise speaking enthusiastically about it. Use your voice, accent, tone, rhythm and body language to make it sound like the most interesting thing in the world.
Some presentations may be about selling a product, an idea, so you should practice the art of selling and persuasion. Record or video yourself saying what makes it special, how it can improve people’s lives and why everyone needs it.
My recommendation is to apply whatever works for you and relaxes you.
Plus, stay authentic with your own presentation style. The fear of public speaking is only in our minds. If we put this fear aside the gains are endless, becoming a better version of ourselves.