There will come the time when we have to speak in front of other people. When all eyes are on us. And everyone is listening intensely to what comes out of our mouths.
If you are like many others, the possible image of you speaking in front of a group of people might cause deep stress. It might be because you worry that you suddenly lose the ability to speak. That you mumble, and most of all that your audience will laugh at you or judge you for your bad performance.
To prepare for these situations, many people decide to take precautions. They read books about public speaking, watch talks, visit seminars and even become members in public speaking clubs like Toastmasters International.
If you want to prepare for these situations as well and want to develop more confidence speaking in front of other people, here are 3 tips for the beginning of your public speaking career!
Create a safe environment
We can read books on public speaking and rhetoric all day long, but at some day we have to practice it. Theory gives a great foundation, but does not replace the harsh reality. I would even go that far to say that while you practice over and over again, you are automatically writing your very own book on public speaking. Every person is different and handles the situation therefor differently.
In order to practice, you need a safe environment. Where you can learn more about yourself and are where you don’t get traumatizing feedback just because you left your comfort zone once. Try to start as safe as possible and successively claim once seen unsafe territories now your own.
For example, you can start with just speaking for yourself in your room. Pull some videos showing audiences looking at you onto your screen and speak to pixels. You might be laughing at this idea, but even this seemingly simple exercise can produce stress. I practice my speeches and workshops the same way. An interesting learning was that my perfectionism is a much harder critic than my audience. Try to practice both, prepared speeches and impromptu speeches as well. I have developed a tool called STAGE TOPICS that supports you with practicing impromptu speeches at home. Give it a try!
After feeling comfortable enough speaking for yourself, it is now time to expand your comfort zone a little. Ask your friends to be your audience and to give honest feedback. Over the course of your journey to become a confident speaker, you will learn what feedback is relevant to you and when to kindly say thanks. In the beginning, you might feel the urge to work on everything another person points out. Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Feedback is always highly subjective and might differ a lot from person to person.
When your heart does not suddenly stop while speaking in front of your friends now, it might be a good idea to think about expanding your audience. I can’t recommend enough what a great learning experience Toastmasters International is. These clubs are almost in every country and bigger city, and there are many people wanting to get more confident speakers. Special training programs and amazing feedback speeches by the club members are part of every club meeting. You come because of getting better at speaking and stay because of the people. In my view, this is a perfect environment to experiment and make mistakes that will prepare you for everything the cruel business world will face you with.
Appreciate your audience
Many people think that they have to use stunning gestures, eloquent language or mind-blowing dramaturgy to give a great speech and to be liked. No. The key to success in my view is to appreciate your audience. This does not mean to show a slide with “Thank you for your attention!” at the end of your speech or presentation. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Attention is one of the most valuable resources that we human beings have to offer. Usually your audience is willing to grant you their attention. They are prioritizing whatever you might have to say over everything else that currently takes up space in their minds. Wow! Isn’t that an immense burden on every speaker? Unfortunately, this gift is not always appreciated as it should. If you develop an attitude to appreciate your audience, your speeches and presentations are built on the best foundation possible.
This is because every design decision you are making is made with that appreciation in mind. Your audience will feel it and will be grateful for it.
One of the best experiences I had on stage was when I failed. I don’t want to say, that I don’t like to be fluttered with compliments, but in the end it is the pushbacks that make us rethink our current path we are on.
Like the one time I was failing horribly at a speaking contest because I overused symbolism in my speech. Everyone in the audience came to the contest after their 8 hours working shift and just wanted to relax and have a great time. No one wanted to listen to a speech where you have to translate mental concepts and symbols and create the speeches message on their own. In a language that is not their mother tongue. The audiences’ response was depressing. But in the end turned out to be exactly the response I needed at the time.
Imagine you do everything in exactly the way proposed in public speaking books or blog posts like these and get good feedback. You walk along the tracks of others. Where is your adventure then? What is your story to tell?
Embrace bad audience reactions. Embrace when you go too far. As long as you are still in the safe environment I talked about, this is the best thing that can happen to you!
There are much more pleasant things than talking in front of an audience without confidence, but with the right prep and practice you will love it. To begin, it’s important to make a comfortable setting to practice in and get to know your audience. Think about what you want them to learn from your presentation and how you can get them involved. It’s also essential to accept mistakes and use them as a chance to learn. With these tips, you can build up your abilities, boost your confidence, and become a successful public speaker.