Public speaking isn’t that scary, I promise!
This article was culled out of a Wentors Impact Session with Jennifer Cox. These sessions are focused on addressing soft skills needed by women in technology to advance in their career.
In this session, Jennifer took us through the rudiments of public speaking. You can view the playback below before delving into the written adaptation of the session:
If you’d prefer a written detour, then read on:
It’s natural to conclude that Jennifer is mad, because how can she say that public speaking is not scary. It’s a bold claim, however, not for Jennifer who has spent a better part of her career speaking and engaging audience of different sizes.
After you go through this piece your mindset on public speaking would change. The goal is to show you that public speaking isn’t that scary. In other words, those fear factors that has made you say all your life that public speaking is scary would have vanished.
Before we go any further, we must recognize that public speaking is a human-made phenomenon, which means that we created it and, as a result, we have the potential to influence it. And one advantage of having control over things is that we can decide if it will be a positive experience for us or not, and if it will be a positive experience, we can use it as a learning lesson.
So here are things we must consider in public speaking.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY?
Before we enter any public speaking style, we must consider what we want to say:
- What will this public speaking be about?
- What would it be called?
- What would I use to put together my slides?
Consider all of this before committing to public speaking.
The TELL DO TELL strategy is a secret method for achieving this purpose.
Here’s how it works:
- Using this strategy, you TELL on what you want to talk about and set the expectations, you demystify your topic, and also familiarize your audience with the topic/idea.
At the end of this process, your audience should feel energized.
The next stage is to DO.
- DO your presentation. At this stage, you are actually performing (doing) your presentation, giving your public speech, or telling on what you intend to say as well as passing across your message.
Remember that public speaking and presentations do not always have to be restricted to PowerPoints and microphones; you can also sue cue cards and props to bring the audience into what you’re speaking about.
The last is to TELL again.
Here, you’re concentrating on having a summary, or drawing your conclusion and letting them go over all you’ve previously said.
The TELL DO TELL approach benefits public speaking in the following ways:
- It helps the public speaker maintain control by serving as a reminder of why they are there in addition to what they are doing and how important it is to them.
- This strategy is especially useful when you have a lot of figures in your speech because it keeps your speech organized.
- It breaks down your speech into small chunks, which helps timid and shy people overcome their worries.
- It makes your speaking more pleasant and precise.
Preparation is essential!
It is a critical component of public speaking. Everyone benefits from the preparation process since it decreases the anxiety and fears that are almost unavoidable. That stress has been replaced by a sense of assurance.
So, in this way, you must first complete your homework, then conduct research and do extensive readings, create your slides, and test all materials and data to be used in the presentation, particularly the fact figures, to guarantee they are error-free.
Then you arrange them in the TELL DO TELL approach and go further to have your presentation prep!
In this prep it’s advisable you present to friends and family, people you are of close contact with so they can help you point our every necessary error.
Another thing to remember is to include your “kick-back words,” also known as “survival words,” in each slide. These are the words that will bring you back on course if the worst-case scenario occurs while you are presenting.
Having presentation preparations like this helps you lesson the ambiguous way in which you have used in viewing public speaking, rather you see it as a conversation, this occurs mostly when you have often done several preparations, the more you prep present, the lesser you view public speaking from being a big event.
Ensure that while you do your presentation prep, you often make use of your survival words so it sticks to your muscle memory.
Another thing to note here is, when rehearsing ensure you include every possible question that can be asked after your delivery.
It’s vital to remember and keep in mind that after all of this, you may be confident that there is nothing that can go wrong during public speaking that is beyond your control, because you have rehearsed for everything through your preparations.
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
Ask yourself, “what am I afraid of?”
What really is so scary about public speaking?
Most of the time, what we, as humans, are frightened of is what other people will think (oh, she’s not good enough, I can’t even hear her…). We’re also fearful of stumbling over our words and tripping on the stage. It’s interesting how such odd and silly things can pop into our heads and make us terrified of stepping up that stage and doing what we want to do!
One tip to help in this is the awareness that once we are able to realize and recognize that people are more concerned about how stupid they might appear to you and not about how stupid we might look, we would be able to overcome that fear.
Understand that we are all humans, and we go through these things. Who knows if they were in your shoes, they might not be as good as you are.
They didn’t come to see you stumble over your words or trip on the platform, but rather because they heard about you and want to hear you speak, or they were drawn to your issue and want to be informed by you! So, relax, it’s not about you, but about them.
YOU ARE THE CENTRAL POINT OF YOUR OWN UNIVERSE!
At this point when you have considered what you want to say and have done your several presentations, thought about your what your fears are and done self-therapy sessions in overcoming them, you go over to your “go-to test audience” and present.
Your “go-to test audience” comprises of a larger body, not just people you are familiar with.
They should include those who are interested in your public speaking topic as well as those who are not, people who are familiar with the issue (this may be your colleague or someone from another department in the firm you work for) as well as those who are not.
Take your time, don’t rush, be patient with yourself and present.
No one, and I mean absolutely NO ONE would stand up from the audience and walk up to you to talk faster, they came to listen to you talk, if not they would have been where you are and you where they are, so take your time and talk, they are going to be patient to listen to you till the end.
BE IN THE MOMENT. WHAT TO FOCUS ON “DURING”
When you’re on stage presenting, stay in the moment. Even if you see people standing up and walking out, stay in the moment and don’t panic thinking, oh, I’m surely spouting rubbish, that’s why they’re walking out… they’re bored and don’t want to listen anymore.
Who knows, they definitely just went out to stretch out their legs, or even to invite more people. So don’t panic, if you notice you are already panicking and can’t control it, you take a break. Take a pause and take deep breaths, then you continue.
One piece of advice is to get one or two people who can see you and you can see them before you start your presentation or even while you are presenting and you know you are starting to panic, give an eye lock that definitely would tell them I am doing a great job that may not be as great as my expectations and I’m in a panic mode but I want to do this and I need your support, it’s absolutely okay to ask for help and trust me they would return the most enlightening.
PACING SHOULD BE GOOD FOR YOU “AND” YOUR AUDIENCE.
Did you notice the emphasis on the “and” in that subhead?
It’s natural to get on edge at the middle of your presentation, it could be as a result of one distraction or the other.
When this happens it’s only natural that you exhibit some mannerisms, to some it could be stuttering, to some it could be scratching their head and when this happens we tend to increase our talk pace.
In as much as the situation might warrant it, it’s best we learn what needs to be done to make you look less or no mortifying to your audience.
So take note of your tics i.e those mannerisms that comes out uninvited because you’re nervous or scared or having a panic mode after you have noted them, you address them, form other mannerisms like placing your hands in your pockets to avoid scarring your head and whatsoever, etc.
Most significantly, your speaking cadence should be managed so that your audience is also at ease. So, if you know that rapping the rest of your presentation will help you talk quickly and get off the stage, you should be aware that the audience may find it uncomfortable because they may have a hard time hearing you.
So, in short, be mindful of your talk pace, ensuring that it is loud enough and that you can speak clearly. If you are a fast talker, ensure that you practice at a slower pace during your presentation preparations and rehearsals so that it does not feel alien to you when you get to the stage on D-day.
STAYING CALM: HOW DO I STAY CALM?
Staying calm is also vital during public speaking because there are numerous reasons why you should not be calm, but we must recognize that we are the ones with the power edge, therefore we must be calm or at least attempt to be cool till it’s all over.
Practice human connection while you are on the stage, it’s very important to as a public speaker.
Constantly remind yourself of things that make you less nervous and practice them, rehearse with them, and, if feasible, have them on your cue cards (such as the cards you keep in your hand with crucial survival words for each slide when presenting).
WORST CASE SCENARIOS: WHAT TO DO?
When you’re faced with a worst-case scenario, whatever it may be…. Don’t forget all the techniques that have been previously mentioned.
Practice them, use the technique and then move on to the next stage.
WHEN IT’s ALL OVER
When it’s all over, what happens?
Have you ever thought about it? If not, you should ask yourself this question every time you give a public speech.
But first, before you do anything else, give yourself some praise; enjoy it! Your accomplishments and success in completing a public speaking event.
After you are finished, you should examine yourself and grade your presentation.
It is possible to achieve it either mentally or physically. So, you make a list of things you should have done but didn’t, and vice versa.
Don’t just take the notes, take them and go over them;
- did you successfully do human connection with your audience?
- Were you able to pass your message to your audience?
- Were your expectations met?
- Were you able to perform proper stage management and maintenance?
Examine those factors and apply them when preparing for your next public speaking engagement.
Now, is public speaking that scary?
PS: This piece was written by Medon Blessed, a guest writer for Wentors