I’m going to tell you a personal secret before I get to the ones promised in the title of this blog post.
I was … a professional bellydancer for many, many years. (By the way, it’s great fun – if you’ve ever been curious about it, I encourage you to shed your fears and just go try it out). Just a full disclaimer: I was definitely MUCH thinner before kids, before my son’s birth where my pelvis detached. Yep. There it is…)
I’ve performed on stage in front of thousands of people and I’ve also been the “behind the scenes” gal, keeping an eye on the operations to make sure the performance goes smoothly. During that time and since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about taking the stage, even when I’m not actually “speaking”.
Public speaking is one of the most common fears out there. I guarantee that some of the most seasoned speakers still get butterflies before stepping up to the podium. Many of the people you see on stage who seem cool, calm, and collected have most likely figured out the best ways to prep themselves for success.
I’m going to share some of those tips and secrets with you so that the next time you’re asked to give a presentation, or even make a speech at someone’s wedding, you can be the vision of serenity and confidence.
It sounds simple but people tend to take short, shallow breaths when nervous. Before you open with your witty one-liner to greet the audience, allow yourself to take a slow, deep breath.
FOCUS ON THE AUDIENCE
No, this isn’t where I tell you to imagine them in their underwear (does that trick ever work?). Focus on who’s out there, whether it’s an intimate workshop group of 10 or a full auditorium, and see the faces. Remember – they’re just regular people like you and me.
Don’t overthink what you’re doing. You already know why you’re there, what you’re going to talk about, and what you’re going to say. It’s just you and the audience who is there to listen.
Envision yourself speaking clearly and at a good pace as you connect with and engage the audience. Imagine yourself feeling confident, in control, and empowered. You’ve run marathons, started your own business from scratch, raised three kids…Delivering this speech is a piece of cake!
And then…start speaking. The above tips won’t even take a minute. Besides, it always creates more of an impact when you wait a few beats before speaking. So take that time to prep yourself for a solid speech.
What else can you do to increase your confidence?
Try practicing your speech at home. Read your words out loud to make sure they feel natural – if you find that something is tripping you up, don’t be afraid to change it around. Focus on pronouncing the words clearly. If you have a tendency to speak quickly or mumble, force yourself to slow down and exaggerate (just a little) the movement of your mouth and the pronunciation of the words.
Record yourself. No, no one likes to hear the sound of their recorded voice. However, this allows you to note whether you’re speaking too quickly, if certain parts are making you stutter or stumble, or if anything sounds unnatural.
Remember: just because something reads well on paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will sound as good when spoken!
Practice speaking in front of your family or friends. This is a great technique that gets you used to addressing other people while looking at them, as opposed to speaking at your own reflection in the mirror.
Finally, one last tip…
Stop selling from the stage.
People want authenticity – the audience wants to connect with the real you, not the well-crafted version of you.
I remember once watching a speaker who seemed too rehearsed, too polished, and it honestly kind of turned me off. I wanted more grit and bones. I wanted to feel and hear the passion and enthusiasm because those types of speakers always have the most impact on a crowd.
Going back to all the times I’ve “lurked” behind the scenes, I’ve had the opportunity to watch thousands of speakers, from Tedx to first timers. What I’ve discovered is that it’s not the experience of the speaker that makes the biggest impact. No, the ones who always leave the most memorable impression in my mind are the ones who speak from a place of complete honesty, are well-prepared, and take a second to just enjoy the moment.
So you see – it’s not about polishing yourself up all shiny and bright and making sure you’re perfect. All you have to do is ground yourself, remember why you’re there and who you’re doing it for, and let your true personality shine through.
Ready to go rock that stage now?