For many, public speaking is one of life’s greatest fears. Unfortunately it’s also a common necessity. Whether you’re CEO, a student, or president of the PTA, at one time or another we all have to give a speech.
As it’s such a nerve racking task it’s helpful to know how to calm the nerves and present like the confident well-informed woman you actually are, but can fail to show.
It may seem like public speaking is all about the actual speaking and although factors such as tone, pitch and structure are important, there are other often unnoticed factors that can have an enormously positive effect.
1. Look amazing.
By amazing I don’t just mean drop dead gorgeous, although that never hurts. I mean amazing in a way that makes you feel secure, comfortable, confident and appropriate.
If you know you have to give a speech, then really give thought to your appearance. It’s important to strike a balance between feeling good about yourself while still looking appropriate and comfortable enough that you’re not second guessing your style choices.
If you’re fidgeting with your outfit or don’t feel you look your best, you won’t preform your best. You want all the physical stuff in place so that it’s one less thing to worry about. You want your full attention on the speech, not how your skirt is tugging or your shoes are hurting.
2. Practice, duh.
This is such an obvious tip, but I’ll explain why it’s the most important.
By practicing you allow for a backup if and when your brain shuts down from nerves. We’ve all been there, the mind goes completely blank, we become paralyzed and we struggle to form even one coherent sentence.
This is likely to happen when we’re afraid. Either we clam up or ramble on like an idiot, in both cases our message is sure to be lost.
By practicing, and I mean practicing until you can recite it back and forth in your sleep, then no matter how scattered your thoughts become you’ll have something solid to fall back on.
This doesn’t mean you must recite the speech word for word, this can make you come across as slightly robotic. But a memorized speech provides a guideline that can be expanded upon in the moment. And remember practice out loud!
3. Squeeze away.
If you’ve ever seen the wildly entertaining movie Maid in Manhattan, then you may remember a scene in which Ralph Fiennes character gives Lopez’s son a paper clip to help him through a school speech. He tells him to squeeze it hard so that all of his fear gets channeled into the clip allowing for a sooth nerve free speech.
This is actually a very practical tip that I myself have used on occasion. It mustn’t be a paper clip, anything small and hard enough to place in your palm and squeeze will do.
I personally use a small crystal. It’s not only the right size and consistency, but it’s a familiar and comforting object to me. Look around and see what you can find that will do the trick.
4. Nice and slow.
Often times the more nervous we are the faster we talk. Besides getting the whole thing over with more quickly we think the more we say the less nervous we’ll appear, when in fact it’s the exact opposite.
If we take the time to get out the words slowly and clearly we will appear more confident and more informed. Make use of pauses. If you’re beyond nervous take a moment of silence and look up at your audience and give them a smile. It will make you look like you have command of the room, like it’s your space to control.
It will feel very unsettling at first, but this slow pace will only seem slow to you. To your audience you will seem collected and thoughtful, in other words, worth listening to.
HOMEWORK: Practice giving a speech using these tips. It doesn’t have to be a speech you’ll actually give, but the more you practice presenting the better you’ll be when the time comes. If you have any other helpful tips be sure to share in the comments below!