For some people public speaking comes naturally and effortlessly – these people are the lucky ones, because, for a great many more, it simply doesn’t. It can be terrifying, anxiety-inducing, and often when it doesn’t go well, humiliating. It’s hardly surprising then, that so people spend their entire careers and lives trying to avoid speaking in public. If you’re someone who struggles when it comes to standing up and communicating in front of a live audience, whether that’s an audience of one, one-hundred or one-thousand, here are the ‘Top 10 Do’s on Public Speaking’, practical tips you can start applying straight away to dramatically improve your confidence and competency as a public speaker.
- Do Rehearse
Please, please, please rehearse! You really owe it to yourself, to your audience and to that all-important message or idea you’re trying to communicate. The only way you’ll ever look natural and effortless on stage, is to put a huge amount of effort in, off-stage. Here are some tips to help:
- Start rehearsing early. Cramming at the last minutes doesn’t work and often makes you feel even more nervous an underprepared
- Rehearse out loud, and move around – this gets the words and their meaning living and breathing in your body, it builds energy and pace and helps with memorisation
- Rehearse the whole thing from beginning to end and don’t be tempted to skip sections
- Practice in front of another human being (rather than the mirror) and ask for feedback
- Film yourself on your smartphone and watch it back, don’t be overly judgemental, just notices what works, what doesn’t and then rehearse again.
Remember, it takes a lot of hard work to make public speaking look easy.
- Do Get to Know the Space First
Make time beforehand to see the space where you’ll be speaking and make sure you’re comfortable with the technical set up, (and DO – practice with that clicker!). The objective here is to eliminate any last-minute surprises and create a level of familiarity both with the stage and with your view from that stage – you want to get comfortable looking out into the audience before there actually is an audience. Try to eliminate any surprises that might throw you off your game on the day.
- Do Say Hello and Remember to Smile
It’s such an obvious one but it’s amazing how many people forget to acknowledge their audience and smile before launching into a speech. People often become so overwhelmed by what they’re about to do, they forget they’re talking to other human beings, and abandon all normal social behaviour. Smiling and saying hello is one of the quickest and easiest ways for you to start building a connection with your audience and winning them over, which is the whole point. It’s contagious, if you smile at them they’ll smile back at you and immediately, you’ve created that connection. Plus, it also gives you a moment to acclimatize to being on stage and get comfortable before you begin. So, next time you’re speaking in public, start with a smile and a genuine hello, and your audience will love you all the more for it!
- Do Make Eye Contact with Your Audience (and not with your slides)
When people avoid eye contact it makes them look shifty. We don’t trust them quite as easily as we do when someone is able to hold eye contact, and as a result, we don’t feel as connected to them, or as invested in what they have to say. The same is true on stage. As a speaker, you want to make as much eye contact with your audience as possible. Don’t look through them, above them, or between them, really look at them. Make a point of searching people out and talking directly to them – not just the people in the front row, but those people sat the furthest away from the stage. Your goal is to make everyone in your audience feel seen and included. This is how you’ll start connecting with them and how they’ll start connecting with you. Final word on this one, for those of you who are uncomfortable speaking in public, you might try and hide from your audience by avoiding eye contact altogether and instead throw all your focus on your slides, or your script or even your hands, but trust me, avoiding eye contact like this, is the surest way to alienate your audience, so get comfortable looking people in the eye.
- Do Use Your Hands
One of the most common questions when it comes to public speaking…
‘What should I do with my hands?’ And my answer is always a simple one – use them! How often in everyday life do we find ourselves in the middle of a conversation questioning what we do with our hands? We don’t. Our hands just effortlessly integrate into our communication. They reinforce, punctuate and animate what we’re saying. They give our words a physical expression and dimension. So not only is it normal for you to use your hands when you’re speaking in public, it’s actually crucial to amplify your presence and your point.
- Do Use Your Voice.
Your voice is a powerful instrument when it comes to speaking in public and being able to communicate effectively. It adds variety, depth, texture, and colour to your communication. Start using the ‘5 P’s of Public Speaking’ to bring more agility and variety to your voice:
Learn how to incorporate these vocal characteristics so that when you speak, people want to listen. It’s not just what you say, it’s also, very much how you say it.
- Do Bring Your Personality
So often, when people are uncomfortable speaking in public, they want to hide, either from their audience, from their situation or from themselves, very often, from all three. The problem is, when you start to hide like this, you start to shrink, becoming the smallest possible version of yourself and in doing so you abandon your personality until there’s nothing left of you at all. This is one of the worst things you can do on stage because if you become that small, you become boring and forgettable, your audience won’t see you, they won’t warm to you, and they certainly won’t care about what you have to say. When you’re speaking in public you actually need to do the opposite of shrink – you need to expand. You need to be so authentic and present that you’re bringing your whole self to the party, and then your energy needs to expand to fill the space. So, the next time your speaking in public, don’t shy away and hide from yourself, don’t turn into an automated, robotic version of yourself, be comfortable being your whole authentic self. The audience wants to see and hear a real person, so bring all of your personality.
- Do Find Your Base on Stage
You should feel comfortable and entitled to move around on stage. It will help you connect with more members of your audience, as well as keep your presentation dynamic and energised. However, know the difference between moving with purpose and randomly pacing. The former will reinforce what you’re saying the latter will distract from what you’re saying. The way to avoid random pacing but keep the movement is to find your ‘base’ on stage. This is going to be your strongest position to speak from, it’s normally centre stage. This is where you should deliver any key messages. You can move away from ‘base’ any time you feel compelled to do so, but the secret is, making sure you always return there, to that same spot. Think of your ‘base’ as your anchor to the stage and your energy source, when you start drifting too far from that point, go back there, re-establish the connection, find the stillness, find the power and use that to propel you forward.
- Do Ground Yourself.
Once you’ve found your ‘base’, you need to be able to ground yourself there. This is really important, because, if you don’t feel grounded, meaning secure and steady in your space and yourself, you certainly won’t look secure or steady. This will undermine your credibility, it will also distract your audience, they’ll start paying attention to all the wrong things. When you’re grounded, you are strong, connected, and centered, you’re transmitting a message of confidence and certainty, this will manifests itself in your message and strengthen your credibilty.
- Do Have a Clear, Punctuated Ending
The end is the climax, the big hurrah, the invisible punctuation mark to your speech. So, make sure that it’s strong and make sure that it’s clear. There’s nothing worse than that uncomfortable moment when the audience is not quite sure whether you’re officially done and so offer a tentative and underwhelming clap, which is a horrible way to end, but much more horrible if you have to jump back in because it wasn’t really the end. Avoid this by making sure you always find a way to clearly punctuate the end your talk, giving your audience a very clear cue, it’s finished. A simple but genuine ‘thank you’, often works well.
If you’d like to learn more about public speaking and how to develop your skills in this area, we’re running our next Public Speaking Workshop in London on the 11th & 12th July. Visit the Events Page to learn more!