We’ve all had the dream where we’re the public speaker standing naked in front of a large group of people.
No? Not everyone?
Well it certainly happens a lot. Enough to be one of the most common fears in modern society. It is estimated that 75% of the population suffer from some form of anxiety or fear of public speaking, otherwise known as Glossophobia.
But rest assured, there are active steps you can take to become a better public speaker immediately and the list below will guide you on your way.
1. Be Okay With Your Nervousness. It’s Completely Normal
Remember the opening scene from 8 Mile where Eminem is vomiting in the bathroom before he goes on stage? Yes, it’s gross but it also goes to show how nerves can get the better of you initially and that’s completely normal.
Everyone reacts differently to nervousness. Some people are completely paralyzed by nervousness while others turn it in to a positive. By utilizing the adrenaline rush that comes with being a big ball of nerves, you can be sharper in the moment. You can be more alert and have a slight edge over the present situation.
Additionally, the best offense is a good defense, so in other words: the less anxiety, the better. One of the best ways to combat anxiety is extensive preparation. The more you prepare, the better off you’ll be in the end.
Dedicate the time needed to study your notes or engage a friend to give you pointers. That will help get those nervous butterflies to fly in formation.
2. Focus On How To Reach Your Audience
There’s a major difference between someone hearing you and them listening to you. You can talk all day but if someone isn’t actively absorbing what you’re saying, it’ll go in one ear and out the other.
It’s no different when you’re speaking to a group of people or an audience. There is a common interest that’s brought everyone together. If you spend the time to understand what that is, you can speak directly to that commonality.
3. Listen To Your Audience
Non-verbal feedback is crucial when speaking to a large group of people. If your audience becomes bored or restless, you risk losing them to the nether reaches of day dreaming. Once there, it becomes tough to snag their attention again with anything short of flailing your arms and smoke signals.
Stay engaged with the public you are speaking to and the public will stay engaged with you as the speaker. Let their reactions help guide your intonations, energy, etc.
Stick to the script but don’t be afraid to deviate if you see an opportunity.
4. Be You and Let It Shine On Through
There is literally only one of you on this planet unless you’ve been cloned, which still means there’s only one of you, just plus a clone. The point of the matter is that you should let that wonderful, genuine personality of yours shine through when speaking in public.
The most unique and genuine experience you can give others is the gift of you. So why not give that gift to an entire gathering of people at once?
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Funny and Use Personal Stories
If you can get someone to laugh, oftentimes that means you’ve connected. You’ve been heard. You’ve done exactly what you’re looking to do here, many times before.
Embrace your sense of humor and don’t be shy with the personal stories. People will genuinely connect with you if you make them feel good.
Laughing and sharing personal experiences accomplishes just that.
6. Don’t Read Directly from the Page. Use an Outline
If you’re diverting all of your energy to the page before you, how much energy are you giving to the people before you? It’s best to work from an outline and use it as a roadmap.
The real goal is to be off book as they say in the theater world. Off Book is when the material has been memorized to the point of being able to be regurgitated.
Long story short, it’s better to be more familiar with the material you are speaking about, than less familiar.
7. Use Body Language Deliberately
Don’t be fooled, the body is a large part of public speaking. The way you present yourself physically is directly related to how you’re perceived by others.
Are you giving off threatening body language? Nervous? Frustrated? All of these and more can hinder your ability to get all your points across.
The best option is to keep a very open body language and use hand gestures deliberately to emphasize key points.
8. Be Unconventional
There’s no one right way to do something. In fact, there could be millions of ways to be the best at anything. Public speaking is no different.
Many different cultures, many different people have unique ways of getting points across and captivating audiences. Experiment with what works best for you and fits your own personal style because at the end of the day, it’s you that the people are coming to see.