You've probably heard that one of the most terrifying experiences for most people is public speaking; more than snakes, heights or even death itself! And yet it's one of the best ways to market, promote and gain recognition in your field as an expert. Here are some ways to help pave the way for you as you begin your journey to the platform, or on your next sales presentation.
Let me begin by saying that when I first came to the US to go to college, I was so shy that I had my mother ask hotel personnel where the restrooms were. How ironic that I now make my living as a professional speaker! So remember, if I can do it, you can certainly do it!
First things first: Ask yourself what is your intention? What do you hope to accomplish? Are you there to motivate, educate or entertain? Who is your audience? Just as you would dress appropriately for the occasion, your methods should also be appropriate for the group. Customizing is key. If this is a regular sales presentation, then know your customer and how to meet their needs.
If nerves get the better of you, try these techniques: Take a deep, diaphragmatic breath through your nose, hold it and exhale slowly through your mouth. Visualize yourself doing a great job, people listening to your every word. Go in the bathroom and make funny faces, and shake your arms and legs vigorously to let the tension out. Don't hold onto anything like paper, because that will emphasize the shaking, and draw our eye to your nervousness!
- If your nerves affect your speech, and you forget what you're about to say, just pause, collect your thoughts, and center yourself before you continue. A well-placed pause will show emphasis, and you won't be fumbling around or using fillers like 'um,' or 'like,' y'know?
- Make sure you practice, practice, practice. Preparation and practice is crucial. Practice it in your mind, out loud, ideally before a mirror or on video to see your gestures and your overall body language. Do you have good posture? Are you smiling? What's your rate of speech.
- Voice is a critical element to your overall image, and is often overlooked. Make sure you use vocal variety, highs, and lows in your speech pattern. Be careful not to sound too monotonous, or too giddy. Enthusiasm is the best way to convey your message, and to connect you with your audience. A simple voice exercise is to hum out loud the Happy Birthday tune, and to use tongue twisters a few minutes before you go on camera or stage.
- We all know the importance of looking great, but a word of caution: make sure you're physically comfortable. There's nothing worse than trying to concentrate on your message when your clothes are too tight, or you are wearing brand-new shoes that are making you miserable.
Bottom line is this: Be original in your message, and be authentic. They asked you to be there because of who you are and what you have to say. Look at your audience. Really look at them, and speak from your heart. Good luck, and see you in the spotlight! n