THINKBOX GROUP BLOG
The blog provides useful and interesting articles on personal and professional development in all areas of life.
Best way to overcome stage fright is to know what the f**k you’re talking about...
“Best way to overcome stage fright is to know what the f**k you’re talking about”
Becoming an outstanding speaker
Whether we're talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public at some stage in our life.
It becomes your choice whether you prefer to do it well or you can do this badly, and the outcome affects the impression people get about us. This is why public speaking causes so much anxiety and concern. NLP can help you banish fear and excel at public speaking whether in business or in personal life.
The good news is that, with good preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well. This article explains how to achieve exactly that!
The importance of public speaking
Even if you don't need to make regular presentations in front of a group, there are plenty of situations where good public speaking skills can help you advance your career and create opportunities.
For example, you might have to talk about your company at a conference, make a speech after accepting an award, or teach a class to new recruits at your firm. Public speaking also includes online presentations or talks; for instance, when training a virtual team, or when speaking to a group of clients in an online meeting. Being a good public speaker can enhance your reputation, boost your self-confidence, and open up countless opportunities.
However, while good public speaking skills can open doors, poor speaking skills can close them. For example, your boss might decide against promoting you after sitting through a poorly-delivered presentation. You might lose a valuable new contract by failing to connect with a prospect during a sales pitch. Or you could make a poor impression with your new team, because you trip over your words and don't look people in the eye.
Techniques for becoming a confident speaker
What's great about public speaking is that it's a learnable skill. As such, you can use the following strategies to become a better speaker and presenter.
First, make sure that you plan your communication appropriately and think about how you'll structure what you're going to say. When you do this, think about how important a book's first paragraph is; if it doesn't grab you, you're likely going to put it down. The same principle goes for your speech: from the beginning, you need to intrigue your audience.
For example, you could start with an interesting statistic, headline, or fact that relates to what you're talking about. You can also use story telling as a powerful opener but remember that it has to be relevant to the area you are talking about. Planning also helps you to think on your feet. This is especially important for unpredictable question and answer sessions or last-minute communications.
There's a good reason that we say, "Practice makes perfect!" You simply cannot be a confident, compelling speaker without practice.
To get practice, seek opportunities to speak in front of others. You could put yourself in situations that require public speaking, such as by training a group from another department, or by volunteering to speak at team meetings.
If you're going to be delivering a presentation or prepared speech, create it as early as possible. The earlier you put it together, the more time you'll have to practice.
Practice it plenty of times alone, using the resources you'll rely on at the event, and, as you practice, fine tune your choice of words until they flow smoothly and easily.
Then, if appropriate, do a dummy run in front of a small audience: this will help you calm your nerves and make you feel more comfortable with the material. Your audience can also give you useful feedback, both on your material and on your performance.
Engage With Your Audience
When you speak, try to engage your audience. This makes you feel less isolated as a speaker and keeps everyone involved with your message. If appropriate, ask leading questions targeted to individuals or groups, and encourage people to participate and ask questions.
Keep in mind that some words reduce your power as a speaker. For instance, think about how these sentences sound: "I just want to add that I think we can meet these goals" or "I just think this plan is a good one." The words "just" and "I think" limit your authority and conviction. Don't use them.
A similar word is "actually," as in, "Actually, I'd like to add that we were under budget last quarter." When you use "actually," it conveys a sense of submissiveness or even surprise. Instead, say what things are. "We were under budget last quarter" is clear and direct.
Also, pay attention to how you're speaking. If you're nervous, you might talk quickly. This increases the chances that you'll trip over your words, or say something you don't mean. Force yourself to slow down by breathing deeply. Don't be afraid to gather your thoughts; pauses are an important part of conversation, and they make you sound confident, natural, and authentic.
Finally, avoid reading word-for-word from your notes. Instead, make a list of important points on cue cards, or, as you get better at public speaking, try to memorize what you're going to say – you can still refer back to your cue cards when you need them.
Pay Attention to your Physiology
If you're unaware of it, your body language will give your audience constant, subtle clues about your inner state. If you're nervous, or if you don't believe in what you're saying, the audience can soon know.
Pay attention to your body language: stand up straight; take deep breaths, look people in the eye, and smile. Don't lean on one leg or use gestures that feel unnatural. You can check one of my previous articles on gestures that improve the delivery of your messages or which gestures to avoid.
Many people prefer to speak behind a podium when giving presentations. While podiums can be useful for holding notes, they put a barrier between you and the audience. They can also become a hiding place from the dozens or hundreds of eyes that are on you.
Instead of standing behind a podium, walk around and use gestures to engage the audience. This movement and energy will also come through in your voice, making it more active and passionate.
Positive thinking can make a huge difference to the success of your communication, because it helps you feel more confident. Fear makes it all too easy to slip into a cycle of negative self-talk, especially right before you speak, while self-sabotaging thoughts such as "I'll never be good at this!" or "I'm going to fall flat on my face!" lower your confidence and increase the chances that you won't achieve what you're truly capable of.
Face your nerves
How often have you listened to or watched a speaker who really messed up? Chances are, the answer is "not very often."
When we have to speak in front of others, we can imagine terrible things happening. We imagine forgetting every point we want to make, passing out from our nervousness, or doing so horribly that we'll lose our job. But those things almost never actually happen! We build them up in our minds and end up being more nervous.
Many people cite public speaking as their biggest fear, and a fear of failure is often the main reason. Public speaking can lead your "fight or flight" response to kick in: adrenaline courses through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases, you sweat, and your breath becomes fast and shallow. Although these symptoms can be annoying by changing your mindset, you can use nervous energy to your advantage.
First, make an effort to stop thinking about yourself, your nervousness, and your fear. Instead, focus on your audience: what you're saying is "about them." Remember that you're trying to help or educate them in some way, and your message is more important than your fear. Concentrate on the audience's wants and needs, instead of your own.
If time allows, use deep breathing exercises to slow your heart rate and give your body the oxygen it needs to perform. This is especially important right before you speak. Take deep breaths from your belly, hold each one for several seconds, and let it out slowly.
Crowds are more intimidating than individuals, so think of your speech as a conversation that you're having with one person. Although your audience may be 100 people, focus on one friendly face at a time, and talk to that person as if he or she is the only one in the room.
Videotape your speeches
As you watch the video of the speech you delivered, notice any verbal pauses, such as “ums”. Look at your body language: are you swaying, leaning on the podium, or leaning heavily on one leg? Are you looking at the audience? Did you smile? Did you speak clearly at all times?
Last, look at how you handled interruptions, such as a sneeze or a question that you weren't prepared for. Does your face show surprise, hesitation, or annoyance? If so, practice managing interruptions like these smoothly, so that you're even better next time.
If you speak well in public, it can help you get a job or promotion, raise awareness for your team or organization, and educate others. The more you push yourself to speak in front of others, the better you'll become, and the more confidence you'll have and remember that studies have shown that “the human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public!”
Trackback URL for this blog entry.