How to Get Better at Public Speaking
Contributed by Bonita Rochelle
One year ago you wouldn’t catch me anywhere near a stage, in a presentation or anywhere near anything or anyone that required me to speak, publicly.
Why? Because who likes to speak publicly? It is the most nerve wrecking thing I have ever experienced. That moment you get up on stage and you see the sea of faces just staring back at you waiting for you to remember your opening line.
Or what about the joke that doesn’t quite make anyone laugh? Awks.
Aside from all of the above, I suffer from really bad anxiety and so I would usually turn down a speaking gig because of the sheer fear that would come over me and all the thoughts I would have about everything that could possibly go wrong.
Well, you know growth doesn’t happen in your comfort zone right?
Speaking and presenting is a key part of my job, and if I really want to progress in the media industry I need to be able to impress with my presenting and public speaking. I have clients who need to see a confident person running their social media channels, not believing in myself will only cause others to not believe in me. The whole point of public speaking is to get people to buy into what you are saying, right?
Here are five things I did to conquer my fear of public speaking:
1. Understand that growth doesn’t happen in your comfort zone
I’ve said it twice and I will say it again.
GROWTH DOES NOT HAPPEN WHEN YOU ARE COMFORTABLE.
I’ve known this for a while but I decided to be proactive about finding things to do that would make me feel anxious or nervous or uncomfortable. I knew it was the only way I was going to grow so my first public speaking gig was at my agency's version of Ted Talks. I was so nervous but I actually killed it and I couldn’t believe how well I actually did.
Not saying that cured my nerves because shortly after I did another and couldn’t even get my words out. It is important to figure out what works for you when it comes to preparing and delivering your talk.
2. Practice, Practice, PRACTICE
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is great but you have to know what works for you when it comes to preparing for your talking gig and delivering it. For me, I find when I have planned out and practised my talk several times I become super confident in what I am going to say and what my delivery will look like.
For me, once I have that down I know I don’t have to worry about losing my train of thought and If I don’t have slides as prompts then I make sure I carry some cue cards up with me.
3. When you finally have your talk down and are confident in what you are going to say, practice in front of someone and ask them for feedback.
I don’t always do this because I find it awkward sometimes but if it helps then get someone to listen to you before your gig and get some constructive criticism. Something that might make sense to you might not make sense to someone else, so it is useful to get a second opinion if you are still not sure.
4. When it comes to the day, don’t drink. People always talk about “Dutch courage” but alcohol will only actually cause your fight or flight to kick in.
Drink some water, take some deep breaths and when you do finally get up on stage or in front of your audience look past them.
I don’t mean completely ignore your audience, keep them engaged by walking the stage and look at them but don’t make eye contact with individuals It will throw you off.
Instead, look at your audience as a whole rather than individuals. I’m not sure if that makes sense, honestly, I know what I mean but can’t explain it well via text ahha!
Finally, if you really want to take your public speaking to the next level record every talk you do and watch it back. That way you can see your body language, how you engaged the audience and your projection.
Then it is on to the next one.
What are your tips for getting better at public speaking?