You know your topic inside out and the time has come for you to share your expertise on the center stage. Except there’s a slight problem: you have a fear of public speaking.
Declining the invitation isn’t an option, you’ll never overcome your fear that way. Saying yes, will not only help raise your profile, but it will also broaden your network and potentially lead to more opportunities.
I used to dread talking to large audiences: sweaty palms, forgotten words – you name it. That’s until I addressed my fear and forced myself to do more speaking engagements until I became comfortable. However, I don’t believe the fear of public speaking ever fully goes away. That’s not a bad thing either. Nervous energy, when used well can transform a good speech into a great one.
So how do you deliver a speech that makes an impact and leaves a lasting impression? Like anything, to be great at public speaking requires practice.
Five Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
1. Structure Your Speech
Start with a strong opening, perhaps by sharing an interesting statistic, asking a question or if you’re brave – tell a joke. This will increase the energy in the room. The standard essay format e.g. introducing the topic, talking about the topic and then summarizing the key points – is a good structure to follow. Signposting the speech will also help gather your thoughts.
2. Draw on Personal Experiences
Use stories or personal experiences in your speech to let your personality show and to help form an emotional connection with your audience. Everyone has their own unique experiences – use them to your advantage. For example, as a Londoner living in New York, people often ask me to share my experiences of the cultural differences between the two cities.
3. Practice, Practice and Practice Some More
The more you practice your speech; the more comfortable you’ll feel on the day. Once you’re happy with your outline, practice saying it aloud to yourself in front of a mirror or record yourself on your phone and play it back. Assess your pace; vocal variety and how many filler words you use. Try to keep the filler words to a minimum by inserting natural pauses between sentences.
4. Watch Stand Up Comedy
No joke. Watch how the likes of Louis CK or Dave Chappelle use humor, vocal variety and stage presence to their advantage. Comedy will also help ease any last minute nerves.
5. Have Fun
When you reframe the way you think about your speaking engagement and just have fun with it you’ll enjoy the experience that much more. On the day, plan your route and aim to arrive at least 30 minutes (ideally more) before you go on stage incase of any transport delays. Remember to breathe, relax and enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.
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