“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is part-2 of the 2-part series on reducing the fear of public speaking. You can read part-1 here.
Let us get moving right along!
8. You do not have to be Perfect and Witty Always and There is no Silly Question
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” — John Steinbeck
One of the great secrets of public speaking is that you do not aim for perfection. Instead, you aim for good enough and go for it.
When we try to be witty and make an attempt to crack a joke, it may backfire. Allow for some amount of spontaneity with humor. The best humor in speaking usually happens unexpectedly.
Even if you are not witty or perfect initially, it is fine. The truth is that being witty in front of a crowd happens after a lot of practice and experience.
One of the important rules of curiosity and in science is that there are no silly questions. There are questions that are more or less relevant but somehow they may all add to your total knowledge.
We are often afraid to ask questions in a public setting because we fear that we will look silly. This is one of the main reasons that we stop short in asking questions that we think are too basic. In reality, clarifying things makes you a lot more confident.
1. Go for good enough and not perfect.
2. When asking questions remember that there is no silly question. If it is a basic question, remember that different people are at different stages of understanding.
3. Do not worry about the audience and if it thinks your jokes are witty. When you begin seeing what works with different kinds of audiences, you will see that humor and wit become a natural way to react. They become a natural way to improvise in your talk, much like a good stand-up comedian.
9. Body Language
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
This is a big one.
If you see a speaker who is crouching, does not make eye contact and behaves like they do not even want to be there, what impression will you get?
You have to learn to project the right body language in order to develop confidence in public speaking.
Speaking is about having a strong presence, persona and standing your ground as much as it is about the technical aspects and other elements.
What are some of the biggies of body language?
- Make eye contact with your audience.
- Feel great by dressing well and eliminating appearance loopholes.
- Assume Power poses as suggested by body language researcher Amy Cuddy.
- Some positions like the palms up while explaining and genuine smiling can endear you to your audience and make you feel better.
- Stand straight and feel firmly planted on the earth.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you comfortable enough to take pauses and stand still for a second or do you twitch and move uncomfortably?
- Do you have dependence on props like clutching a slide remote? Or do you to shake around the laser pointer around on the board and it gets distracting?
- What do your hand gestures look like?
- What does your tone of voice imply?
- What does your timing say about your communication skills? Are you hurried or do you pace yourself well? Does your body language belie your underlying stress, worry, and cynicism?
I went to to a research conference once where I thought that a talk looked particularly interesting. Everything that the speaker had to say was great and the presentation was well laid out.
But I could not focus at all. The speaker kept moving and shaking the laser pointer at the presentation. Sometimes in small repeated circles and sometimes in sweeping moves. The outcome was that the presenter looked nervous and the emphasis on the pointer was a big distraction.
While my mind struggled to focus on the information in the presentation, the pointer made sure that I was missing a lot of the talk.
In the end, my head was hurting by all the convulsing movements of the pointer on the presentation. What could have been a solid presentation was undermined by body language and hand movements that spoke otherwise.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, an expert in non-verbal communication and professor emeritus at UCLA says that non-verbal communication is more impactful than spoken words.
In his study, Mehrabian has shown the words account for around 7% of what impacts us most is communication. A whopping 38% of impact comes from tone of voice and an even larger 55% comes from non-verbal communication. Wow!
Make an assessment of your body language while you communicate ideas to others.
Learn about effective body language and importantly try out what works for you in your unique situation.
10. Deep Relaxation Techniques and the Power of Breath
“I always think a great speaker convinces us not by force of reasoning, but because he is visibly enjoying the beliefs he wants us to accept.” — William Butler Yeats
One of the simplest but most powerful way to silence frayed nerves is the breath.
Many people are shallow breathers. This means that when they breathe in and out, the belly does not move appreciably.
It is the chest that does most of the movement. Deep belly breathing moves the belly up and down and is indicative of a more complete and full breath cycle. With deep breathing, more air nourishes your lungs and body.
Deep breathing has the remarkable ability to calm us down and focus us on the task at hand. Hint hint…public speaking.
Realize that when your relaxation amount exceeds the gross stress level in your life, you can carry some of the relaxation with you. The goal is to decrease life stress so that you are situationally calmer and with less anxiety.
Develop a relaxation regime as your daily practice.
Realize the submodalities of stress and anxiety- where are you feeling anxiety?
Try progressive relaxation techniques that are frequently practiced in yoga etc.
Meditate and sit in silence to take some of the peace with you.
Spend some rejuvenating time in nature.
11. Take your Time and not Rush it: the Power of the Pause
“Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”- Martin Fraquhar Tupper
Let me ask you an important question for enhancing your public speaking skills.
What is your purpose or goal for your public speaking?
Do you want to end the talk as quickly as possible? Or do you wish to be an effective speaker who makes points that you really want to make and leave an impact?
Of course, most of us choose the latter but in-reality, we feel like the former option. We feel stressed and tension to just blurt out part or presentation and move on or leave.
One of the big secrets of great public speaking is not to rush in and rush out. It also means not to cram in as much stuff in there as possible. When you try to overstate in the allowed time provided, you rush and make sentences more complicated than they need to be.
Instead, make it simple and take your time to go through the concepts. Yes, the might be anxiety provoking but it is not any different from rushing through it and trying to get it over with.
In fact, when you decide to mindfully leave behind the hurry, you begin to find the gaps and punctuations to think and speak effectively.
Be mindful and aware of your speaking style.
Are you using enough gaps and pauses that allow others to think through what you are saying? A pause is a powerful tool in effective public speaking. In fact, a very small pause lets you think and also builds up anticipation for the next idea.
Be mindful and appear purposeful by not rushing through your presentation and speech.
Like great music needs its gaps and a painting needs its spaces without any color, your speech may need more gaps and punctuations to breathe better.
“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.” – Sir Ralph Richardson
12. Locational and Temporal Effects: The Food and Water Connection
“A man does not know what he is saying until he knows what he is not saying.” — G. K. Chesterton
A good speaker always makes sure that she is well hydrated. She also makes sure that she is not hungry and has an elevated energy level to get through her presentation.
Taking charge of your energy levels and your temporal or time-based effects is an advanced tip for great speakers. You will notice that many speakers have their bottle of water handy so that they do not have to suffer from a parched throat while making a presentation.
Realize what times you feel elevated energy levels and when you feel a need to rest and relax. If you are not a morning person, scheduling plenty of speaking early on during the day may not work for you.
Remember that speaking involves the person and that person is you. Everything matters, especially if you are well hydrated and have eaten recently enough to feel high energy levels.
Conversely, many people feel sleepy after a big meal, so you may be better off leaving some time after lunch or dinner before scheduling a speaking gig.
13. Purpose And Passion
“Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” -D. H. Lawrence
One of the best ways of making sure that you will be a great public speaker is to make sure that you have great passion and interest on the subject. Now, of course, that may not always be possible but it is a great idea to find a niche or topic that you feel strongly about to practice your speaking skills.
Many of us have been thrown into fields that we care little about and have to give presentations that do not mean much to us. Do you see a pattern of lack of interest and lack of enthusiasm here?
I am a biology and a math teacher and when I come to the classroom, whether it is a small group or a larger one, I have great interest and excitement about the lesson plans for the day and the subject in general.
I have heard the same response as feedback from my students. The consensus was that I had great interest and enthusiasm as a teacher and was able to communicate that in my:
- Real life examples
- Motivating others
- Enthusiasm about the field
- Belief that I really loved what I spoke about
Have you ever wondered why many of the great speakers are such effective speakers? Look no further than a great passion for the subject matter and the niche that they are speaking about.
“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” -John Ford
Remember that people want to see you shine through. They are not paying or watching someone ramble off information, You are the expert in the moment.
In the classic book Eloquence In Public Speaking By Dr. Kenneth Mcfarland, there is little or no reference to methods and techniques of speaking.
Instead, McFarland focuses on the emotionality that a speaker brings to the speech.
In other words, I believe what McFarland was saying was that how much you care about what you are speaking about is more important than all the other stuff.
I cannot agree more. I have realized after almost 15 years of public speaking and teaching that if you do not feel strongly for a topic, it is difficult to be an effective speaker.
The public picks up unconsciously on tone, enthusiasm, and emotionality. Unfortunately, interest cannot be feigned and it certainly cannot be communicated.
Let me ask you this:
If you are not deeply moved by what you have to say, do you expect your audience to care one bit?
“It is an ancient need to be told stories. But the story needs a great storyteller.” — Alan Rickman
Do you care about what you are speaking?
Do you use emotionality and a heart-based approach?
Do you feel deeply and think deeply about what you are speaking about?
Are you charged or are you lukewarm?
DO people tell you that your passion always shines through?
Are you communicating your story through your speech?
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”― Winston S. Churchill
14. Write about your Public Speaking And Visualize a favorable outcome
“If you can’t write your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour.” -Dianna Booher
When you write down what you are going to say even if it is an outline, it can be helpful.
Writing it down allows the topic to crystallize in your mind. You can be intentional about writing it down by underlining or making the key words and concepts bold.
Another technique that I find useful is to write down the anxieties that I have around speaking. Often, when you write down the anxieties that you are feeling around speaking, you assist in dealing with them better.
One thing that you can do is from the visualization page of championship athletes. When you visualize the speaking process and a positive outcome, you are priming and training your brain for that to happen in reality.
We have discussed the idea in the past that your subconscious does not know the difference between the real thing and something visualized with a great deal of emotion.
So, if you be emphatic on your speaking visuals and imagine the strong positive emotions that you are going through as you speak, it is a powerful tool to be a successful speaker.
15. Forget about Audience Responses, Expressions, and expectations
“The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.” — Lady Bird Johnson
Remember that person with a stoic or nasty expression sitting in the front row who you cannot stop thinking about?
It is your little secret that you are anxious. Do not feed off your nervousness with the stoic expressions of your audience. Do not project their lack of interest with your inadequacies.
React not for pleasing the audience but for delivering a fabulous content and a purposeful talk.
“There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.” – Alexander Gregg
This is the end of the post. Please let me know on social media and in the comments below if this post resonated with you.