Public speaking is something that is commonly feared – even if you’re chatty and charismatic, the prospect of rousing a crowd can be daunting. Will your jokes chime well with the audience? How do you ensure you’ll create the impression of expertise when stage fright takes over?
Whether it’s your first big business speech or you’re fighting glossophobia, use these tips to perfect your stage presence.
Use Tone to your Advantage in Speechwriting
The best speechwriters are able to ‘read’ an audience before they even arrive – you should make this your aim, too. Create a profile of the key personas who will be attending. Are they strained employees, expert business execs or something else entirely? Are they peers or people you’ve never met?
The answers to these questions will shape what you should include in your content and help you to understand how to deliver your material. If your goal is motivation, try opening with an emotive story. If you need to set the tone after a formal dinner, crack a few jokes but avoid anything too risque. When your guests are leaders in their own right, incorporate expert revelations into your speech to truly impress them.
To perfect the result, consider asking guest speakers to join you on stage. Or, better still, book a professional speaker to take care of the delivery on your behalf. There are many speaker booking services in the UK – Speakers Corner is just one example. If you’d prefer to leave speaking to the professionals, these organisations can find a great match from their catalogue of celebrity, expert and inspirational speakers.
Practice Makes Perfect
Whether you use a mirror or a small crowd of friends, the importance of practice shouldn’t be underestimated. As well as priming your memory for great delivery, practice helps to ease nerves by getting you used to the experience of performance.
If you suffer from public speaking nerves, this step is crucial, since few things turn an audience off more than an obviously anxious speaker. It is also a good idea to sharpen your body language and eliminate unprofessional fillers like ‘um’ and ‘like’ from your speech. Use a VR app as an aide to nail the charismatic elements you need – here are a selection of the best.
Your aim should be absolute confidence, to the point where you don’t need a script. Treat notes as a safety blanket – there if you need them, but not to be relied upon. Rehearse your speech again and again until every sentence flows from memory.
Interact with your Audience
If you suffer from public speaking anxiety and you’re finally facing your fear, it’s easy to go into autopilot. One popular coping mechanism is to pretend your audience simply isn’t there – but it’s not always the smartest approach.
The best speeches are interactive; part of a two-way conversation. At the very minimum, you should make regular eye contact with people spread throughout the audience. Stand back and look around, own the stage and use exhibits, activities or props if you need to.
If you prefer to avoid the risk of introducing interactive elements that sink on the day, simply work on your keynote presentation to make it as engaging as possible. Using non-linear presentation software from the likes of Prezi can be a useful way to take your audience on a visual journey.