Have you ever had to speak in public and felt so nervous that it completely freaked you out?
If so, you should know that you are certainly not alone, as up to 75% of people have a feeling of total fear when they are obliged to speak in public.
There are even polls that show that more people are afraid to speak in public than they are of the thought of death.
I thought it would be useful to share strategies, tips and methods to help overcome this fear and make sure that you can speak in public with confidence.
“5 principles and 4 tips to have the courage to speak in public”, taken from the book How to speak in public by Dale Carnegie, the famous author of the best seller How to make friends and also taken from other sources on the web.
Generally, people believe that the ability to speak with eloquence is a natural gift, one that you’re either born with or, quite simply, you won’t have it.
The reality is that, as with everything, you are not born competent, you become competent.
Dale Carnegie totally breaks down the barriers required to speak in public, because when you read his books, you realize that to speak well in public is feasible and within everyone’s reach.
The techniques taught by Carnegie are now very common in the world of politics and business.
He has also had an effect on numerous copywriters, i.e. writers of sales pages and other advertising work, because certain formulas of his are applicable to both the written and spoken word.
In his book, Carnegie shares principles, advice and tips on how to be more comfortable when you give a talk or speech, how to convince people, how to get them to react, and how to just get a crowd involved.
HAVE THE COURAGE TO SPEAK IN PUBLIC: 5 PRINCIPLES
Principle #1: Build up your self-confidence.
You have to understand that the thought that you have to speak in public is one of the biggest fears that most people have. It’s important to overcome it.
– The first thing you need to do to build your confidence is to investigate the reasons why you are afraid to speak in public.
Appreciate it isn’t just you who has this problem and that great professional speakers also suffer from stage fright.
It’s hard to get rid of stage fright, but that’s not an issue because the more you develop your skills to speak in front of a crowd of people, the more you’ll learn to do well despite the stage fright.
In fact, stage fright is useful because it helps you with your preparation and allows you to give it your best shot. And the fear to speak in public simply comes from the lack of practice. So the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to handle it.
I’ve spoken in front of up to 2,000 people for several years now, and I have definitely become much more confident about my stage fright.
It never totally disappears. But it certainly decreases in intensity the more you present and after a while it becomes very manageable.
Something else I’ve learned that also helps a lot, normally a few minutes before you’re due to speak and you have a little bit of a tight ball in your stomach, is to take a deep breath.
Try to breathe as slowly and deeply as possible and you will see that it will be a great help with how you are able to control these emotions.
You will still feel it, but in a much calmer way. And, obviously, it will really help you stay in control of it.
There will be another bit of advice, based directly from own experience, at the end of this article.
– The second thing to help build up your self-confidence is to be well prepared.
It may seem obvious and it is. Good preparation is very important for the quality of your presentation.
In order to prepare properly, you need to do several things.
First of all, never try to learn your text by heart. That’s sure to lead to failure. Instead, try to organize your ideas. To do this, make index cards which, once categorized, form the framework of your presentation.
You can also use your PowerPoint presentation as a reminder, that is, it will act as your guide. And each time you display an image, it will be like a list of bullet points, to help you with the subjects that you wish to speak about.
You could choose to approach it in a more off-the-cuff manner, as you won’t memorize your presentation. However, very few professional presenters choose to do this because:
- it is very tricky,
- if you ever forget a particular section, then the likelihood is that you’ll be completely lost,
- you are more likely to sound a bit robotic and your audience will lose interest.
One bit of advice: think about your topic and try to recall related events from your past that have taught you something.
Share a story, a personal incident that once happened to you.
And to practice, talk about the contents of your speech with your friends. This is a great way to test the ideas you’ve chosen for your presentation in everyday conversation.
Right away, you’ll see if things that aren’t particularly clear when you talk about them because your friends will ask you questions or you’ll notice that they’re a little bit confused about some of the material, and all of this will be a tremendous help with your oral communication.
– Third point: Be sure beforehand that you will succeed.
Focus on your topic and avoid any negative thoughts that could distract you.
Try out some visualization techniques of you on stage, as you deliver a confident, humorous, and insightful presentation. This will help you prepare yourself psychologically.
– 4th point: Present confidently.
To become confident, you need to act as if you are.
Principle #2: You can soon learn how to express yourself well in public with these 3 fundamental rules.
– 1st rule: Cover a subject that you have experience with or that you have studied.
Base your presentation on something that you have personally experienced, so that you can illustrate your story in a very authentic manner.
This allows you to choose a subject from your own past.
– 2nd rule: Talk about a subject that has a personal connection to you, something that you are passionate about.
This will provide you with plenty of energy, enthusiasm and passion, that will help you convince your audience.
To assess the value of your chosen subject, ask yourself if you would be able to support your position, with conviction, if someone were to challenge you on it. This is a good sign that you really care about it.
– 3rd Rule: Have a genuine desire to connect with your audience.
It’s important to not only be enthusiastic but also to convey your message with enthusiasm to your audience.
Principle #3: Be prepared to deliver a speech with these 4 points in mind, in order to capture the audience’s attention.
– 1st point: Keep it simple and to the point.
The brain can’t really handle a mountain of endless details. It’s better to present fewer ideas and embellish them with examples and colorful details
– 2nd point: Build up a reservoir of knowledge.
The goal is to know more about the subject matter you are about to share so that you can answer any relevant questions from the audience.
– 3rd point: Use images and examples to illustrate your point.
To achieve this, personalize your presentation with human experiences and give people names, rather than just say, “people have done this”. Just keep to personal examples with specific people.
Be specific, put lots of details in your presentation.
Try to answer the questions: When? Where? Who? What? Why?
This allows you to be specific and come across as more plausible.
You can also make your presentation more dramatic with how you put your language across. It also gives your speech the tone of everyday conversation. You will come across in a more relaxed and informal manner.
Let people see what your presentation consists of as well.
Don’t hesitate to share stuff, or mimic someone or simply have beautiful pictures in your PowerPoint presentation. Visual elements mean that people are much more likely to remember your presentation ideas.
– 4th point: Use practical, everyday words and images.
This will liven up your presentation and make it easier for people to listen to you.
Principle #4: Liven up your presentation with these 3 tips.
- Tip 1: Choose topics that you are truly passionate about.
If the subject interests you, you will naturally be enthusiastic and will transmit this enthusiasm to your audience
- Tip 2: Relive the stories that you describe.
The more emotional you are, the more vivid your speech will be.
- Tip 3: Be confident, even if you’re not.
Convince yourself that it will happen as you go along, and it’s normal to be a little tentative when you start to speak in public.
Principle #5: Get your audience involved in your presentation.
5 key points to connect with your audience are:
– 1st: Talk to your audience about what they are interested in, which is themselves.
Try to always connect what you present with some form of value, i.e. tell your audience what they will gain from the information you share with them.
– 2nd: Give genuine compliments.
If, for example, someone makes a valid point or someone asks a good question, don’t hesitate to say: yes, actually, very good point or excellent question, thank you.
– 3rd: Connect with your audience.
Find out what connects you with your audience, what unites you. What things do you have in common?
– 4th: Interact with your audience.
This means that you involve them in the process.
Don’t be afraid to let the audience ask questions as part of your presentation, it has many advantages, which may help to make them more attentive and persuade them to join in with the presentation, to make it more interactive, more fun and of more interest.
– 5th: Be modest. Audiences hate pretentious speakers.
HAVE THE COURAGE TO SPEAK IN PUBLIC: 4 PRACTICAL GUIDELINES
Let’s move on to 4 practical suggestions to help you to give a presentation that will resonate with people.
1st suggestion: Keep your presentation short to motivate the audience.
You already have a proven magic formula, as Carnegie says, that gives you the opportunity to make a strong impact.
1. Tell a story from your own personal experience.
Carnegie and I come back to this a lot, because it’s important, it helps to make your presentation more genuine.
Start your presentation with some detail about that experience, a short story, something relevant that will allow you to connect with your audience.
Don’t be afraid to give specific details. You need to be able to share the experience with your audience and relive the moment.
Basically, bring the moment to life.
2. What advice would you give them?
What do you want your audience to do? There are 3 rules that apply at this stage.
- First, tell them in brief and precise terms what you want them to do. Tell your audience: “this is what I recommend you do”.
- Next, make sure that your recommendation is easy to accomplish. Tell them, “the first step is very simple, you can do this today or tomorrow, just do X or Y”.
- And lastly, you need to do this in a confident manner to convince them it’s what they need to do. Be really confident and make it as easy as possible.
3. Emphasize to your audience what they can gain from it.
We return to the idea of what they can gain from the information that you share with them. How will your audience gain from it?
Make sure this benefit connects to the event and just focus on one or two, but no more.
2nd suggestion: How do you give an informative presentation?
For this type of presentation, there are 5 tips.
- Tip 1: It may seem obvious and that’s because it is: Limit your presentation to the time slot you have been allocated.
Lots of speeches lack clarity because the speaker tends to try to squeeze in too many ideas.
It is better to deal with a single idea in detail and use relevant examples rather than overdo it with as many reference points as possible within the time available.
- Tip 2: Organize your ideas into a logical sequence.
For example, you can put them in chronological order.
- Tip 3: Number your ideas as you think of.
This will make your speech flow more clearly.
- Tip 4: Compare what is new with what is known.
To give a sense of familiarity, present a fact as an image and avoid technical terms.
Always try to connect what you teach with something your audience already knows.
- Tip 5: Use visual aids.
If your speech is filled with images, it will engage your audience and be easier for them to relate to it.
Use PowerPoint presentations and don’t be afraid to use beautiful illustrations or photos for this.
3rd suggestion: How to deliver a presentation with conviction?
1. To gain their trust and confidence, you need to earn it first.
You have to be sincere because when you are sincere, it’s apparent in your voice. You have to be convinced in order to convince.
2. Engage your audience.
Ask them questions and try to get as many of them as possible to agree with you throughout your presentation because the more “yeses” you get throughout your presentation, the more positive the reaction will be to what you suggest they do.
3. Deliver your speech with a lot of enthusiasm.
The audience should be able to connect with the enthusiasm in your voice and with your body language.
4. Show respect and appreciation for your audience.
5. Start off in a relaxed and friendly tone, the most important thing is to find out what brings us together so that we don’t offend each other’s beliefs.
You must draw from the things in common between your ideas and the views of the audience, in order for them to buy into them.
4th suggestion: “How to make impromptu presentations” because yes, it can happen to you: here are 6 ways to improve.
Route 1: Teach yourself to speak off-the-cuff.
The ability to speak on demand is more useful than to be able to speak after lots of practice and preparation.
So, pick a random topic to discuss and do that on a regular basis.
Route 2: Be mentally prepared to speak when you don’t expect it.
In any situation and at any time, ask yourself what you would talk about if called upon to speak.
Route 3: Give an example immediately.
Because it then makes it easier to tell a story. More importantly, you get to the heart of the matter and capture people’s attention instantly.
Route 4: Deliver your speech in an animated and forceful way.
Your physical energy will back up the story you tell.
Route 5: Use the “here and now” principle.
Refer to your listeners, the environment, what was spoken about earlier. Give current examples and really try to get them involved.
Route 6: Don’t improvise. Deliver a spontaneous presentation.
They are not the same thing. You still need to get your message across in your presentation.
The extra bit of advice I mentioned at the outset, that relates to my own personal experience, is the saying “practice makes perfect”, which is totally appropriate when you have to speak in public.
The more you speak, the more comfortable you will be.
There is an important point to be made here.
As you gain more and more confidence and ability to speak in front of people, maybe even thousands of people, you begin to understand that it’s you who is in the position of power when you are in front of the audience.
What I mean by that is that rarely do you get to speak in front of an audience that hates you or is even slightly biased against what you have to say.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, probably 99.9% of the time, the audience actually wants you to perform well. The audience hopes to get a good performance out of you. They want you to do your best.
And if you get it wrong, no one will take advantage and try to make it worse, humiliate you or do anything else.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite, you will find that people are extremely tolerant of the mistakes that you may make on stage.
Part of this is probably because it’s such a common thing for people to be afraid, if they to had to do exactly what they see you do in front of an audience, that clearly, people identify with your position. They think, “Wow, I don’t know if I could do that well”.
The consequence of that is that, when you’re on stage, it’s almost safer to be there than in the audience because, generally, those in the audience are more scared of the thought to present a speech publicly than are you.
The fear is that they might be chosen to join you on stage or that they might be picked out to answer a question that you put to them directly.
For most members of the audience, just the thought that they might be singled out by the presenter, who is up on the stage, terrifies them.
As a matter of fact, this has been proven. You see in most courses, workshops or whatever you want, often the first two rows are completely empty because, in the vast majority of cases, the audience is more afraid of you than you are of the audience.
And also, since they are there to do well, you can ask them what you want.
You can ask them to do all sorts of things you wouldn’t be able to do in normal life, stand up, massage each other, exercises, close their eyes, meditate, whatever you want and people will do it.
It took me a while to figure that out. But the safest seat to have in the room, when someone talks in public, is that of the presenter.
And when you understand that, it totally changes everything.