3 Things I’ve Learned as an Experienced Public Speaker
Who is a public speaker?
When you hear the words ‘public speaker’ the immediate thought might be a charismatic speaker standing confidently on stage in front of a large audience shouting motivational quotes like ‘go for it’.
In reality, most public speakers are normal people delivering presentations at work, chairing meetings, or even giving a best man’s speech.
In fact, most people are public speakers at least some of the time: job interviews, business pitches, zoom meetings and even everyday conversations are all types of public speaking.
In whatever guise of ‘public speaking’ you find yourself, the goal is to come across as confident and competent.
3 things that every public speaker needs to know.
Number 1 – You will be nervous.
Being the center of attention, especially with a new audience, is scary.
Speakers feel vulnerable, scared and awkward.
As the time comes for you to speak, your heart beats faster, the palms of the hands become sweaty and breathing becomes short and rapid.
It is this state that creates panic. Have you ever felt that you have just wanted to get out of doing a speech?
To overcome this feeling of dread when speaking in public, you can use two simple techniques:
- Become comfortable with speaking. The more speaking engagements you have the more familiar (and experienced) you will become as a public speaker. Once public speaking is your norm, the anxiety will naturally reduce.
- Know what to say. Often in public speaking situations such as boardrooms, the speakers haven’t prepared what to say – instead, they respond to the meeting/questions being asked. On stage, confident speakers have rehearsed their lines. This same technique can be used for any public speaking engagement; preparation and practice create confidence and resilience
Number 2 – It will go wrong
Even the most rehearsed speakers fail when something goes wrong.
The commonly used phrase ‘Death by Powerpoint’ came about due to nervous speakers using the presentation slides as a comfort blanket (they would read the text on the slide instead of memorising their lines) in order to speak directly with the audience.
What happens if the screen is faulty or the speaker accidentally leaves the pen drive with the presentation at home?
All experienced speakers know that things go wrong and plan for them. This could include:
- Having a backup Pendrive
- Taking spare batteries for the clicker
- Being well-rehearsed
- Having content that can suit different audience sizes and levels of knowledge
- Knowing how to deal with hecklers
Number 3 – the audience is easily bored
Imagine, walking onto stage or having the focus on you in a team meeting, and as you start to speak you can see boredom in the eyes of your audience.
The truth is, that not everyone will agree with your content, like your delivery style or will have an interest in your speech or presentation.
There are ways that can increase audience engagement, and make even the most disinterested audience member sit up and take notice.
Use intrigue – start the speech with an amazing stat or an ambiguous opening that shocks the audience. Pull out a humours prop or start to sing! Obviously, context is key here. But the idea is to be different, make the audience think ‘what’s happening here?’
Turn data into stories – data can be an audience killer. Sometimes though, presenting data as a story can create interest.A story can set the scene – explaining the problem that came up that resulted in the need for the data. Within the story an explanation of the different data sets can be discussed, ending with the story giving a future scenario.
Ask questions – in a meeting or while presenting on stage, one of the easiest audience engagement tricks is to ask questions. Randomly asking audience members questions puts everyone on their toes – they will listen, because they might be the next person to be asked a question.