At some point in our lives we had to be at the front of the stage. Maybe figuratively, when we had to talk on our grandmother’s birthday, or explicitly in an auditorium in front of hundreds of people. No matter what the occasion, we all know that when we have the reflectors on top, our presence lights up and our voice resonates … for good and for bad.
Learning the art of speaking in public is the difference between taking advantage of these occasions to influence and connect with other people or cause opposition and rejection. In any of the extremes, we hardly go unnoticed. That’s why many people avoid these moments so as not to take such risks. However, they also miss the chance to share their ideas, meet other people and transform their environment.
In the current work world, this ability is essential to get a promotion, switch jobs, sell an idea, propose a project or seek financing. The good news is that, like any skill, it can be developed and strengthened. Here we share some tips that will surely be useful for you, so that the next time you are at the front of the stage you make yourself heard loud and clear.
Master the topic: It would seem obvious but to be able to talk about any topic you should know it well. At least enough to answer questions and contrast opinions. So before speaking in public, research, investigate what others have said on the subject, what are the most recent statistics and, if it’s a controversial issue, find out what are the conflict areas. This way you’ll be prepared even if you had to make an impromptu speech.
Know your audience: It doesn’t matter if it’s a sales pitch, a conference or a friends meeting; If you know who you’re targeting, you can prepare yourself better, focus your words and build the right climate to share what you’re passionate about with your audience. If it’s a planned forum, research who’s invited, if they all share the same language or if there’s a sensitive issue that you should avoid or deal with carefully. If it’s an improvised forum you can ask the public questions to locate if there are different groups and what kind of things might be of their interest.
Position a single idea. A topic can be approached from multiple perspectives, but depending on your communication objective, you’ll know what angle to explore and how to prepare your arguments. The difference between talking and communicating lies in how you build your ‘idea force’ and how you design the effect you want to provoke in your audience. Chris Anderson, shares on his TED Talk that a fundamental part of any TED talk is to show curiosity in your audience and accompany it, one argument at a time, to discover the answers.
Start in front of the mirror. Practice what you’re going to say in real time. Take a stopwatch and measure the time it takes you to cover each part of your talk. If you must pause or emphasize any part, be sure to include them in these essays. And record yourself. A voice note may be enough to realize that maybe you give too much time to the introduction and little time to develop or if the cadence and flow of your speech break at some point.
If you have already adjusted these details, you’re ready to make pilots with a friendly but real audience. Ask people you trust to see your performance. This time develop your stage presence too. This is not complicated but very important. Walk around the stage, familiarize yourself with this space and interact with the visual aids you want to use as presentations, objects, video or audio clips, etc. When finished, ask them to share what their experience and feedback was. This will help you make the final adjustments to your speech and feel comfortable with it.
At least half an hour before your presentation get to know the venue, introduce yourself to people who coordinate the technical part and if there are speakers presenting before you, listen to them and see how they perform on stage. Maybe they do or say something interesting that will serve you as an introduction to make the passage from one conversation to another more fluid.
If the nerves betray you, take a deep breath and slowly breathe out. This will help your heart rate to normalize and decrease the feeling of suffocation. Once the show has begun, remember to make eye contact with the attendees and take care not to hurry to avoid oversights or mistakes.
Have on hand cards with clues that will allow you to remember the information if necessary, but don’t stand in front of the audience reading. In the end, it’s advisable to open a space for questions and answers to clarify any doubts.
These are just some tips that can help you prepare for this moment. If you want a complete program with our experts, sign up for the public speaking workshop we have designed for you.
Remember that speaking in public becomes easier as you practice it. So, take advantage of any opportunity you have to feel more comfortable with you in front of the reflectors and polish your speech. Put these tips into practice and share with us how it goes.