Dive into Public Speaking

First published October 26, 2012

Published by The Nashville Business Journal

One of the most common fears in life is speaking in public.

I have seen people of all ages freeze when put in front of a group to deliver a talk. Being videotaped — and having your words permanently recorded — adds yet another element of stress to public speaking. We have all been there. And must go there again.

If you are on a leadership path you will have to deliver speeches from time to time, so you are going to have to get used to it. In fact, solid public speaking often separates the big stars from the small ones.

Make up your mind now to speak publically, whether to a small or large group, as often as possible. Like any other skill in life, your public speaking will improve simply by doing it more regularly. While the old adage “practice makes perfect” may not fully apply here, the more you talk in public the smoother you will speak and the less anxiety you will have about it.

Here are few tips for a painless public speech:
• Stay in bounds. Stick to topics on which you are knowledgeable and confident. Avoid speaking on new topics, which will add a new level of anxiety to your speaking engagement.

• Plan ahead. Start working on a plan for your talk as early as possible. The more comfortable you are with your subject matter, the less stress you will feel on the big day.

• Big bullets. Outline your talk with bullet points, using short phrases. You can speak more naturally and conversationally from an outline. Don’t try to memorize your talk; you will stumble and mistakes will appear more obvious.

• Opening lines. Get your first few sentences down pat. A strong leading thought that’s delivered well builds confidence and sets the tone.

• Talk to yourself. Practice out loud in front of a mirror. Record your speech and listen to it. Video is even better. It’s the best training tool for seeing all of your physical movements, hearing the sound of your voice and understanding the cadence of your talk.

• Prep time. Get to your stage early and learn your surroundings and people in the space. Make sure you are comfortable with the podium, microphone, lighting, etc., so there will be no surprises.

• Step outside yourself. While we may perspire a bit and our hearts may race, much of our nervousness is emotional and isn’t noticeable externally.

• Move on. Miss a point in your talk? Keep going. No one in the audience knows.

• Confident close. A closing statement that drives home key takeaways is critical. Prepare a clear close so you can end smoothly and confidently.

Now stop procrastinating and go write a speech. The sooner you start, the sooner you will become a more confident speaker.

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