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As a procrastinator that adores the adrenaline rush of self-torture, I always equated the public speaking experience to leaping off a cliff without looking, while getting a vaccine shot.
I hoped if I picked a topic, started talking, and hopefully blacked out a little, it would inevitably be over in a few minutes.
And you know what? Thanks to 10 years of theater training and a degree in communicating things, sometimes, miraculously, I pulled it off.
But how was I at getting people EXCITED about what I was saying? Now I realize, not so great.
The first tape I watched of myself I said ‘Um’ everything other word. I fidgeted. I looked at the ceiling. It was bad.
I didn’t even know how awkward I came across until watching myself on film. During my talk, I couldn’t even hear myself speak. Re-watching the video makes me realize I chew on words like ‘UM’ or ‘LIKE’ like chewing gum.
We assume some are touched with the gift of public speaking or performing and others are not. Gifted public speaking is not a birth-right.
I’ve had a front-row to see people give epic, awe-inspiring, educational speeches that are larger than life to crowded rooms of very high-paying customers. Until now, I never realized the art of public speaking and how much sweat, training, and tears goes on behind the scenes.
When it comes to pubic speaking, it is about HOW you say it. This is 75% of the battle. No one will receive a great message that they can’t hear or won’t pay attention to.
Here’s are a few simple principles to help you be calm, collected, powerful, and inspiring.
1.) Sloooooowwwww down.
It is typical to become nervous and speak fast in an attempt to dump all of what you know on the audience and run off the stage.
Pause and take a DEEP breath. Pretend you are speaking in slow motion. Break your thoughts up into small sentences and take a long pause between each one. This will make you AND your audience feel calmer.
Taking pauses will make you sound confident, engaged, and take listeners along on the journey.
When a speaker does this, you will find yourself bonding with them and listening intently to what they say with heavy anticipation.
2.) Hold a firm, neutral stance.
This Theater 101 note is an easy concept in theory but difficult to master. Both feet on the floor, hands at your side, knees slightly bent. This will calm both you and your audience down- making you appear in control of yourself and the room.
Don’t visualize them in their underwear, don’t look over their heads, or at the ceiling. Suck it up and stare them down (politely of course).
By gazing into their eyes, you can hypnotize each person into believing you’re awesome. People love to be acknowledged and recognized. You audience can’t space out if you are looking right at them.
Here’s the catch. Staring just a single person down will intimidate them. You want to keep your entire audience engaged by moving from person to person, giving each person a moment of acknowledgement, before moving to the next.
4.) Square off and face who you are looking at.
This body language will make each audience member feel like they are the only person in the world. Everything will fall away, they will become mesmerized by your words. Communication mission: accomplished.
6.) Video-tape yourself.
You really don’t know what you look like until you have to watch it. When you feel brave, set your iPhone up and give a 2-minute speech.
This exercise will help you understand your image and communication style, so you can master and control it. Finally learn how to speak to a room in a way that will make them want to listen.