6 Great Tips for Public Speaking Success

Photo Credit: Shutterstock, ESB Professional
Photo Credit: Shutterstock, ESB Professional

Is there a better feeling than the one you have about yourself after a great presentation?

Here’s a chance to see if you’ve already incorporated these basic tips. People vary in their level of experience and training.

1. Always design the talk for the particular audience that day. Remind yourself to consider the different perspectives that may exist in the audience. What will you encounter in terms of interest level, knowledge level, or preconceived ideas? These preconceived ideas can include negative perceptions that already exist about an idea you’re sharing. For example, an insurance agent needs to be aware of the negative reaction many people have to “whole life” insurance. Speakers need to address such concerns proactively in their talk.

2. Adapt to your audience even during the speech. With each point you’re making, watch their faces for a look of confusion or skepticism or boredom, etc.  You may need to stop and explain that last point more clearly, or add more convincing evidence. If you encounter looks of boredom, make sure you are demonstrating your own enthusiasm for your topic. Consider revising your presentation in the future to incorporate more stories and speak more from the heart. Of course, you must always focus on the significance for the audience.

3. If possible, connect with some members of the audience before you speak. Greet them; do a little chitchat. This strategy helps you build a comfort level with them and helps them respond to you with even more enthusiasm.

4. Mention some common ground with your audience in the first minute or so. Be honest, never fake, but find one or more ways in which you and your audience match: goals, values, background, experience. People naturally connect to others who have something in common with them.

5. Embrace and accept any nervousness. You may think of it as a negative thing, but it also provides motivation and energy. The more you accept it, the less anxious you’ll feel. Realize, also, that others cannot detect your nervousness as much as you think. If applicable, get tough with yourself and ban “catastrophic thinking.” Remember that disaster will not follow a less-than-stellar performance. Don’t allow yourself to imagine negative outcomes. Instead, in the days preceding your talk, daydream and visualize positive outcomes.

6. Also, to combat nervousness, drop that emotional attachment to perfection that we all tend to have. The truth is, people don’t really want you to be perfect. In fact, you’ll connect more if you dare to be a little vulnerable. Tell a personal anecdote that shows a little humility or pokes fun at yourself. It helps you seem human and approachable.

The world of politics carries extreme pressure to worry about every single comment. Perfectionism can be a real struggle. But as I wrote to a client of mine, a U.S. Congressperson preparing for televised debates:

“Perfection can never be the goal. We begin any performance endeavor by deciding that it is okay to make a mistake. We free ourselves of the pressure to be flawless, and ironically, at that moment, flawlessness becomes a possibility. Every Olympic athlete understands this strange irony. The fear of imperfection creates imperfection. The acceptance of imperfection makes perfection possible, as long as the training is there.”

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© 2013 Caryl D. Schlicher A Bridge To Excellence

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