Public speaking is no simple task whether your audience is made up of 20 or 200 people. I know this fact from past experience, especially during my earlier humble years of motivational speaking at trade exhibitions, business conferences, and other public venues.
Public speaking is no simple task whether your audience is made up of 20 or 200 people
The simple fact is that fear from public scrutiny and the lack of experience, can totally cripple your ability to think clearly, communicate effectively, and deliver a powerful / thought-provoking message to your audience. I often call this problem the ‘paralysis’ of public speaking !
The good news is that public speaking is a skill that all people can accomplish in no time, and even master with a few years of experience. The basics of how ‘simple’ this process is, was demystified by industry expert, Laura Huxley, from ‘Speakers Little Secret’, during a Google Hangout show on my ‘InspireTalk’ radio program. I was also joined by my colleague and co-founder Ranil Rajapaksha.
Laura explains how mastery of public speaking can be achieved by considering and implementing the factors below:
- Who’s your Audience ?
It is essential to know the people you are communicating with, and then zoning into their needs, feelings, values, and beliefs. If you are speaking to the younger generation, ‘humour’ and a down to earth language can go a long way. If your audience are professionals or seniors, a more composed and formal style of presenting is perhaps more appropriate.
- What is your Message ?
A powerful presentation can be best achieved by having clarity behind your message, and then learning the art of articulating that message further. Laura explains that ‘it is important to know why are you speaking to these people, and what specifically are they trying to learn or understand’.
- Manage your Fears
To combat the paralysis of public speaking, I personally recommend leveraging on your passion and speaking from the heart. Laura goes a few steps further by stating that if you ‘take the focus off yourself’, as well as know that ‘your audience is really there to cheer you on’, you will find the process a little easier and comforting.
‘Breathing slowly and consistently’, is also a subtle way of massaging your nerves, and by doing so, you can best minimise the ‘ummms’ and ‘aahhs’, during your presentations.
take the focus off yourself......your audience is really there to cheer you on
- Prepare and practice
Laura’s philosophy is that ‘practice makes perfect’. Training your brain and preparing for an event beforehand will have a significant impact on your delivery. She even recommends talking out loud, and rehearsing in the shower, or wherever the opportunity arises.
Skill or Talent ?
I am generally of the opinion that success in public speaking really hinges on acquiring the key skills through practice, rather than being ‘born’ with such skills or inherent traits. I am also of the opinion though, that great modern-day speakers like Barak Obama and Anthony Robbins, possess natural abilities in public speaking, which not all people possess.
Structured versus Spontaneous ?
In a conclusive statement made by Laura, I discovered that achieving ultimate success in public speaking, is learning the art to being spontaneous, having fun, getting the audience involved and ‘playing with them….putting yourself in a slightly vulnerable position, where your true personality comes out’. From personal experience, the adrenalin of working outside the comfort zone and improvising your speech, is a powerful motivator in ensuring you perform at your best.
This article has been exclusively written by Federico Re for CEO Magazine for the February, 2016 print edition.