5 Tips for Public Speaking with Ease
By Shaun Sperling
Whether you’re a graphic designer, photographer, screenwriter or any other type of creative freelancer, odds are during some point in your career you will have to present your work, pitch an idea, or share your vision.
Yes, that can be scary. You’re not alone.
Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is considered one of the greatest fears a person can have. This fear is not necessarily about the quality of a speech itself as it is to how you feel, think, and act when faced with the task of public speaking and in the moment.
While not everyone needs to be a master presenter, there are simple things you can do to win over a room and ultimately get your message across.
Here are my top 5 tips for public speaking:
1. Shift your mindset
If you are reading this post, you likely believe that you are not good at public speaking. That is the first mistake! The simple act of telling ourselves that we are not good at something automatically triggers more limiting thoughts that prevent us from growth and development.
To shift your mindset you can begin by telling yourself that you are great at public speaking, or at least that you can learn to become a great public speaker. Our minds are powerful and you can convince yourself that growth is possible.
2. Play to your audience
Although you can’t control who will show up when you are speaking, having an idea who might be there will give you a leg up and may ease your nerves. Do your best to get a general idea of the individuals who will be in the room and ask yourself, “What information do I want them to walk away with?”
Helpful information includes age, experience and prior knowledge to the topic you are discussing. With this information you can tailor your presentation to make the biggest impact. If you know that some or all of your audience is coming in blind with no prior knowledge of your topic or expertise, you will want to be prepared to bring everyone up to speed with the necessary background information.
On the other hand, if you know a majority of the people in the audience is familiar with the work or topic, you will want to limit background information or education on the topic. You can’t serve everyone equally, but you can play to as many people as you can.
"Sharing your art, ideas and work is a gift. Before you speak, remind yourself that you are there to share that with your audience, not to be respected and liked."
3. Tell your story
The most powerful means of sharing ideas is by telling your personal stories.
The best speakers take their audience on a journey, leaving them feeling inspired and motivated, no matter what the topic is. Stories allow the observer to visualize what the speaker feels about the topic by creating images that stimulate their senses, which in turn gives the observer the chance to relate.
Powerful stories are brief (1-2 minutes) and have a purpose. It’s not just telling a story for story sake, but rather has an end point that means something for the audience. Always ask yourself “What is it that I want my audience to get out of this story by the end of it?”
4. Practice does not always make perfect
Preparation for public speaking is key to success, however that is very different from practicing. You must do your homework by outlining your thoughts, doing the necessary research to have all the relevant information you need to back up your ideas, and prepare relevant stories you may want to tell.
However a common mistake people make is scripting their presentation, memorizing it and practicing. Scripting will only lead to a stiff, unconnected recitation of information. In addition, scripting leaves open more opportunity for you to trip over lines and lose your train of thought.
Good communication is never perfect, and nobody expects you to be perfect. The audience wants to feel connected to you, and they want to see a fresh spontaneous presentation while trusting that you are the expert on the topic.
My rule is that I always know my opening and closing (both include what I want the audience to take away from the presentation) and I let the rest ride on cruise control, allowing for spontaneity and fresh anecdotes.
5. Be in the moment and be yourself
When we feel fear, our bodies respond as if we are confronted with a threat, and our bodies prepare for battle, which interferes with our ability to perform comfortably in front of an audience. Although being in the moment requires only that you are present, we have to fight against our instinct to do anything but that.
To combat our natural physiological response, there are a few things you can do:
(1) Take the time you need to breathe and ground yourself before, during and after your presentation.
(2) Remind yourself why you are there (to share your vision and ideas) and recognize that the audience wants to see and hear YOU, the real you and nobody else.
(3) Show gratitude for the people that are there to listen to what you have to share.
(4) Allow yourself to make mistakes - mistakes put people at ease and make you human.
Shaun Sperling is a facilitator, coach and motivational speaker who is passionate about helping people become their most productive, aware and satisfied. Shaun works with companies, universities and organizations to help individuals and groups become more connected and more effective through his workshops and keynote addresses on topics including leadership, diversity & inclusion, and communication. shaunsperling.com