Some time ago I was asked for advice regarding public speaking. Advice that would be something more than: “Imagine that they are all naked”. It took me a day to gather main techniques I use when I have to speak in public. Some of them come from an actor who was teaching me the acting craft when I was a kid, other are things I learned from practice.
First of all, if you feel that your voice is trembling – don’t worry. It seems easy to say, but not so easy to do. You have to believe me (or not) that audience don’t notice it the way you do. I did some presentations in the past year and I asked my colleague to record them. I was sure my voice was trembling 4 times during my 15-minute presentation. When I watched the recording, there was no trembling voice, nor even a confused look on my face. It was all happening in my head. In reality people loved my speech and congratulated me after. They asked when I will have a follow-up speech as they would like to know better the topic I spoke so briefly about. Of course if you are not prepared they will see you are stressed and going around with the speech, but if you know what you are talking about there is no need to worry.
Record and review
You don’t believe me? Take my advice. Next time you will present in public ask someone to record your speech and watch it afterwards. Don’t analyse it in details, but look at those moments when you felt your voice was trembling and see for yourself how you acted. Is your voice trembling? Did your posture change? Ask also a friend to watch it with you and ask what they noticed (trembling voice, twisted eyes, clenched smile). Ask for honest opinion, a good friend will give you such for sure.
Practice, practice, practice…
On the other hand – do not underestimate the power of exercise!!! Practice your text before you make it a speech. Practice your speech in front of the mirror. Practice it again by recording yourself in full posture and then look how your body is acting when you speak.
Mind, hand, lips
An amazing thing I learned throughout the years is the way to connect your mind, gesture and words you say. Always be mindful about it. Lately I found out that Bill Clinton is a specialist in this technique, and not only him. How does it work? Normally when we speak we tend to analyse the words that already left our mouth. Was it good? Did it sound correctly? STOP doing it. Those words are already out there for others to understand and assimilate. Instead of doing a post analysis think about the words you are about to say before you actually say it. Next step is to make a move as the words float from your head to your mouth. A move that is related to the sentence you are about to say. The voice is in the end, just a fraction of moment after your gesture. Seem a bit confusing at first, but it works. Think of those 3 steps all the time when you prepare your speech: MIND, HAND, LIPS. Don’t forget to exercise it often.
Choose one person from the audience
All the above points are to do pre- or post- speech. There are also some things that you could do while you speak. When I am too stressed before making a speech I often choose someone from the audience. No matter who is sitting there, I always choose one person from the crowd and focus on that person as if we were talking face to face. I don’t gaze at that person all the time, I don’t want to make her/him uncomfortable. But even if my eyes are wandering around the room I keep the idea of this person in my head: the face, the colour of the hair, the clothes. Even if I am going to lose the person from sight I keep the visual imprint in my imagination.
Speak to your significant one
You can also choose to speak to a person who is not in the crowd. The person of my choice to whom I often make a speech is my mum. Even though she would understand only a fraction of my speeches made in English or French I know she is proud to hear me speaking. Her pride and smile gives me confidence that I need to present my speech fully. If I start feeling my voice is trembling I think of her and it calms me down. Try to find such person in your life. The person that you could always come for advice, who will always be there to help, support and smile, and simply dedicate the speech to that person as if she/he was in the room.
While we speak we might have a feeling that something is wrong. Maybe our voice starts to be shaky and unclear, we start to breathe quicker and speak quicker. When you have this moment during your speech, DON’T PANIC! Running away is out of the question. Instead of that, distract your own negative thoughts with a little thing that would be natural to you at that moment. Take a deeper breath, have a sip of water or ask your listeners a question. Use this brief moment to relax and put your thoughts back on track for the speech.
Take a moment to relax
Before the speech don’t forget to relax or do something that works to build your confidence. What helps me a lot is to go to a place where I can be alone for just 3-5 minutes (no longer than 10 minutes before the speech starts). I use this alone time to stand in the super-girl posture: confident, strong, self-aware person with great powers. It was proven that this exercise builds up confidence and happiness hormones level, while the level of stress hormones is dropping down. This way I avoid running away just one second before the speech, the interview or negotiations with clients.
Stage fright is good
In the end I would like you to remember one important thing: the moment you no longer want to run and hide before the speech is the moment you should consider changing what you do. Several theatre actors from whom I was learning presentation skills and acting said that. From my own experience I also know that stage fright only makes us better actors, speakers and negotiators. It is a part of excitement that goes with that job and it only means you are very well prepared for what will happen in the spotlight.
If you would like to work on your public speaking more, contact me and we will see how we could work on developing your skills and confidence in speech.