How to Cope With Public Speaking
You dread public speaking because you don’t know what to say. Here’s what you should do about it: get a piece of paper and a pen and start jotting down your thoughts on what you’ll chat about. Do your due diligence. I’ll give you the most common and simplest speaking assignment–introducing someone on a podium for a certain event. Wise up. Go talk to the person you’ll introduce. Find out directly who she is and how she wants to be introduced. You will also realize the significant events, achievements, and her credentials pertinent to the occasion she was invited for in the first place. When you do this step, your task is 50% done. Preparation is key.
2. Psych yourself.
What is the worst thing that can happen if you stand up and talk? You can be embarrassed and booed on stage. That’s the worst that could happen. Unless you will speak about a delicate national issue which is unlikely, that’s the worst malady you could encounter. No one will sue you if you speak in front of a crowd. However, if you complete first tip–prepare–properly, you will never be embarrassed. Convince yourself of this: you will prepare thoroughly, and studiously, and you’ll be effective in your talk. It’s pretty straightforward and simple.
3. Know your audience.
How will you know how to deliver your piece if you don’t know your audience? By all means, get to know your audience. More specifically, aim to be intimate with your audience. Know their eccentricities, their pain or aches, their desires, their longings. What would they want to know, to hear, to talk about? What are their interests? Know their age bracket. Demographics has always been an integral part of discovering your audience, so go and research about it. In fact, from a Marketing standpoint, discovering the most trivial info, like the brand of coffee your customer prefers, is an edge over the competition. This bit of information, if maximized intelligently, will absolutely help you to kill your competitor, and ultimately, make you invincible. Apply this marketing principle in your talk and you will be victorious.
4. Be an expert on your topic.
Let’s say you are assigned to speak about love. The best thing to do is to recall your own experiences about love. You should also research as many definitions of love you can find. Study them. Then pick instances in your own life and connect them to specific love definitions. Maybe if you are given more time to prepare, you can interview a love expert. That way, you can add all of these bits and pieces to your treasure of love gems. Your goal is to become a love expert before climbing the pulpit. When you finally grab the spotlight, you’ll be ready to rock the house.
The fear of public speaking is related to the fear of criticism. This fear is related to the fear of people’s opinions. I have an amusing solution to this. I learned it when I was still in my teens training to become a radio Disc-Jockey. The trick is this: Imagine that you’re talking to a group of people who are only wearing undies. Visualize that scene. I’m pretty sure you’ll be smiling before you open up your mouth to talk. And when you start this way, you will realize that the best way to face this challenge is to not take yourself too seriously. When you are finally up on that stage, relax, take 3 deep breaths, smile and say hello to your audience. If you are still nervous after saying hello, read your first two lines with all the confidence you can muster. After your first two lines, move on to your third and your fourth, and so on. Usually, when you are done with your first ten sentences, you are good as done. Your talk will flow like it’s being delivered by a professional.
6. Conduct an ocular inspection.
Acquaint yourself with the venue of the event where you will speak. Make an ocular inspection to check how big your venue is. This is a very important step because by knowing the size of the venue, you will be able to decide how big or small your movements will be. If it is a huge hall, you will need to plan to have big hand gestures and body movements. If the size of the venue is like your high school classroom, then adjust accordingly. Just a twitch of your eyebrow will be seen by your audience. A half smile can be flashed to emphasize a point, for instance. If you check your speaking venue first, you will also discover whether you will have the freedom to walk to and fro on an isle, or you will be confined to the stage. These tiny bits of information will spell the difference whether or not, you will have a successful talk.
7. Read, watch, and listen to good speakers.
The Web is teeming with sites, videos, lectures, tutorials featuring great speakers. Allot time to watch and listen to them. What makes them tick? How do they maintain the audience’s interest? What do they do to catch your attention? Do they use humor to fill in gaps when you lost interest on the portion of their talk that is not too interesting? Did you notice that they have arranged the details of their talk in a manner that helps you to easily comprehend the topic and the sub-topics? To make it plain and simple–learn from the great public speakers.
One such speaker who has inspired me in an intense way is Peter J. Daniels. He comes from a disadvantaged background and was challenged with poor education in his younger years. His family was third generation welfare recipients, and he has two brothers who were alcoholics. To make matters worse, a lot of his relatives have been jailed. Consequently, at every grade in school, he failed, so he became a bricklayer. At 26, he was swimming in debt, and as fate has allowed it, in 1959 he attended a Billy Graham Crusade. After this momentous encounter, he went on to build successful businesses and became one of the best platform speakers the world has ever known. I suggest, you check Peter out and learn from the videos of his great speaking engagements.