Like many of you, I was very afraid of public speaking. Who am I kidding? I still am.
Living in a foreign country, giving a presentation in a language that is not my mother-tongue makes things 100 times harder.
Over the past 14 years, however, I never gave up on improving my public speaking skills and confidence. For two years straight, I used to practice famous speeches in my nearest park at 5 am when the whole world was still asleep. I went to Toastmasters meetings every other week to tone my skills. These efforts have finally paid off. Two years later, I was able to improve my public speaking skills and overcome the acute fear I used to have. I have presented to a room of over 100 angel investors, taught my internet marketing course to an audience of over 1,000 people, and given talks to over 10,000 people.however, In this post, I will share 8 public speaking tips you can easily implement to overcome stage fright and wow your audience.
1. Know that public speaking is not public whipping
Your audience is not there to crucify you. They are there to listen to you. It's that simple.
2. Be well-prepared
Plan early, know your material, and practice. This is probably the single best piece of advice I have ever received from my mentors. Reading notes verbatim is a sign of unpreparedness. This is tough, but for your audience to believe what you’re saying, you have to be believable. And to be believable is to demonstrate knowledge and competence in your topic.
3. Understand your audience and their needs
Knowing how to talk to an audience means pitching your speech according to their needs. If you are raising money from a group of angel investors or VCs, know that their single most important goal is to generate the maximum amount of return for their investment. So talk about your grand vision, but make sure to show the large market size, and how your business will make them money.
4. Make an impression
Don’t try to impress. You’re not there to show off your extensive vocabulary or call attention to your new tie. Do or say something memorable.
When I presented my startup Everlasting Footprint to potential investors, a legacy preservation platform for family and friends, here is what I did. I brought a large box with 15 photo albums and 12 old video tapes to the room, and a palm-size obituary from a local newspaper.
"Here is how we remember a loved one who has passed away," I pointed at the huge box on the table. "Yet here is how we summarize a loved one when they die today.
This dramatic contrast certainly left a strong impression on investors, and it has helped me raise capital for my company.
5. Adjust your strategy based on audience size
Speaking in a big auditorium is different from presenting in a small room.
The communication equations:
In a small setting, strive to appeal to the intellect and prepare for big questions.
If you’re a born storyteller, you’re a hit with a big audience. The bigger the group, the more likely the members lose their inhibitions. You don’t hear wild cheering or yelling in marketing presentations – but in football matches or concerts. In big crowds, people are supercharged with emotions and feel free to do what they want. That being “just a face in the crowd” has something like a liberating effect on them.
6. Relax and move around
Don’t stand there like a pole. It doesn’t help if you let your legs grow stiff. Use your hands to emphasize some points. Don’t speak in a way that puts babies to sleep. No matter how interesting or how relevant your topic is, your manner of delivery can make or break your speech.
7. Appeal to emotions
If you want to get your message across a big audience, appeal to their emotions. Share inspiring anecdotes they can relate to. Encourage them to participate.
8. Keep your audience engaged
A crowd gets bored easily. The end of a speaker is a loud, collective yawn. Like a magician with a big bag, be ready with your tricks – to keep your audience hooked. Also, involve those at the back before they doze off and fall off their seats. One way of doing this is moving around the stage (but not too much). Bring life to your speech by adding drama. I’m not saying melodrama. Knowing how to talk to an audience, a big audience in particular, takes working up some energy on the stage.
9. Use stories to drive home your message
An excellent speaker can incorporate storytelling and elements of literature in an otherwise yawn-inducing topic. When I presented Everlasting Footprint to investors, I told my personal story of losing my grandmother. It resonated with people.
Knowing how to talk to an audience begins with an understanding that the success of the talk is measured not in terms of your capacity as a speaker but in how well your message is received.
Henry Boettinger, in his great book Moving Mountains, says, “When you begin to think that small groups are not firing squads and big groups, not spectators at a hanging, you have passed the worst obstacles on the road to mastery.”
Presenting is like going against someone – yourself. But with knowledge, practice, and a good message, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to defeat your self-doubts.
The moment you’re standing before your audience, run……….to success!
Note: Some of the ideas in this article are based on “Moving Mountains” by Henry Boettinger. Many say it’s the best book on communication.