5 Public Speaking Secrets: What Every Speaker Should Know
by Scott Danielson
What’s your secret? At VoicePro®, our clients consistently ask us for public speaking tricks and secrets. Though everyone’s method is different, there are five secrets about public speaking that everyone should know.
#1 Everyone Gets Nervous
There’s nothing “normal” about speaking in front of large groups of people. The body knows it. That’s why it sends a rush of adrenaline through your system right before a presentation (the fight or flight response in action). The difference between an experienced speaker and a novice is how they harness that nervous energy.
Start by shaking out the tension in your muscles and breathe deeply. Then shift your attention to the well-being of your audience and frame the speech as a conversation. With this more positive mindset, you can use the adrenaline surge to speak with passion.
#2 Audiences Are Nicer Than You Think
Business presenters often believe their audiences are prone to hostility, just waiting for them to fail. Not so. Most business audiences are looking to you to make their lives easier. Customers want to hear how your products and/or services will work for them. Executives and colleagues want information relevant to them. Your audience wants to hear how you can help them.
So, don’t dwell on whether or not the audience likes you. Chances are, your audience really wants you to help them.
#3 No One’s A Natural
There’s a widespread myth that some speakers are just “naturals.” In reality, “natural” speakers tend to be the most practiced, the most experienced, and the most prepared. A great example is basketball legend Bill Walton. As a player, Bill suffered from a debilitating stutter that plagued him during post game interviews. Once he left the game, however, Walton worked tirelessly to overcome his stutter and became a successful broadcaster for ESPN.
This is an extreme example, but the point is simple. Practice and preparation over the long haul will turn you into a “natural” speaker.
#4 Something Always Goes Wrong
Considering how nervous inexperienced speakers can get, telling them that something is bound to go wrong might seem counterintuitive. However, acknowledging the inevitability of minor mistakes can ease your pre-speech tension.
The perfect presentation doesn’t exist. Attempting to create one will keep you awake at night. A more realistic goal is to keep the worst disasters at bay. Prepare an outline that allows your thoughts flow naturally. Practice until you’re comfortable with your material. And always, ALWAYS test the electronic equipment before you begin.
Once you’ve taken all necessary precautions, accept that something may not go according to plan. Without the pressure of a perfect presentation, you can take minor slip-ups in stride.
#5 Too Much Enthusiasm Can Be Abrasive
My least favorite motivational speakers all use the same trick. After eagerly asking how the audience is doing and hearing grumbles, they declare the audience can do better. “Come on,” they say, “let me hear you make some noise.” The forced “Okay!” that follows couldn’t be more insincere.
Energy is crucial to a good performance. Unchanneled energy, however, is oft-putting and can detract from your presentation. Pacing from side to side and speaking a mile a minute is energetic, but it will distract and confuse your audience. Likewise, speaking with the bubbly enthusiasm of a pre-school teacher at an early morning conference will surely irritate those who missed their morning coffee.
Instead, slow down and match your audience’s energy level. If your speech is engaging, the audience’s enthusiasm and excitement will build naturally.
What's our secret? Public speaking isn't as terrifying as you think.
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