public speaking

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I most certainly was terrified about standing up in front of hundreds of people and making sounds. Usually the sounds were not coherent and my mouth was dry and my knees were shaking.  One day I got a few tips and hints on how to make the experience a little easier. I thought I would share those with you as they really helped me a lot.

You have to practice your message. Believing you can face a room full of people and remember your points is just plain cocky. When you think of your message, remember that it is for a public audience and not for the written, reading type of medium. It makes a difference. You need intonation, highs and lows where exclamation marks just won’t do.  The best thing about practice is that it makes you sound less wooden or stiff and more convincing.  One size does not fit all. Assess your audience and adjust your vocabulary or your tone.  A room full of factory workers will need a different approach to your public speaking as opposed to a hall full of lawyers.   Don’t try and rush it either because you want to get to the end of this “horrible” experience. Take your time, think clearly about the next part of your practiced message and try and engage the audience. There is a danger of sounding too rehearsed though so make sure your shoulders are down and you have a smile on your face.

It’s easy to forget where you are though. The best way to keep your head free of clutter while on a stage is to make bullet points for your thoughts.  Bullet points will help you keep track of where you are and stop you being a parrot and repeating your whole speech verbatim from your notes. It allows for a change in pace or tack as you still have notes you can refer to if you want to go back.  The best way to have these notes is on a small card note which can fit in your hand or on the podium where you are speaking. If you hit a blank spot.. just raise the card and your mind will follow the cue.

Making the story personal helps tremendously. If you can relate to it, then most people in the audience can too. The nice trick is if it is personal, then you are unlikely to forget the punch-line or stammer over a forgotten piece. It also allows for some emotional response from yourself and in turn a good response from the people around you who can identify with that.  The story doesn’t always have to relate to your own personal experiences either.Yyou can use someone else’s story for your own purposes and make your product or pitch that much more real.

Like any good story, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end.  Think of a newspaper report. The headline grabs your attention. The headline in a speech should be a simple sentence or word that makes the room sit up and take notice.  It should make them aware of your subject and entice them to the next step.. the middle.  The middle should have a strong message, a call to action, or a reason to buy your product.

The end should be a clear summation or a message to leave with the audience. Something that makes them remember you and what you had to say. So often I have seen a hall quiet and unmoving for a few seconds after an apt quote, or a simple plea.  Hopefully this is always followed by lots of applause : )

Good luck all.