Do you have to speak in public but are afraid you're not a natural speaker?
Newsflash: no one is a natural public speaker.
Thankfully, just like any skill, you can easily improve with a little practice.
Steve Jobs is a great example. His first few presentations back in the early days of Apple were quite rough, but he was determined to get better, and we all saw how popular his product launches came to be!
Steve Jobs, however, had the best speaking coaches money can buy. Realistically, what can average people like us do to improve our public speaking abilities without breaking the bank?
Personally, I do not consider myself a natural public speaker even though some insist, but I’ve put in lots of practice over the years which has afforded me the incredible opportunity to appear on numerous TV and radio programs. I’ve also had the pleasure of giving many presentations throughout my professional career.
Now, I’m not saying you’ll be the next Steve Jobs overnight, but here are 3 quick public speaking “hacks” that have helped me look like a pro even though I’m not.
#1: Don’t be a statue
If you’re being interviewed on TV it’s important stay still, but when giving a presentation in front of a live audience it’s absolute suicide.
It's critically important to capitalize on the use of gestures and movements. Talk with your hands; be animated. Walk around the stage and/or room as you engage the audience. Like the old saying goes: “work the room”.
Think of it like you’re out at the bar with a friend. Would you stay completely still and rigid? Absolutely not, that’d be super weird!
Pretend you’re having a simple conversation with a friend and let your movements flow naturally. Keep your hands out of your pockets and use them to point, gesture and enhance the impact of the message you’re trying to deliver. This, in turn, will make you feel more comfortable and help you relax.
#2: Fidgeting or swaying
This one can be hard to realize. We think we’re standing still, but we’re so overwhelmed by the fear of being in front of a crowd we unconsciously fidget or sway back and forth.
Nothing portrays nerves more than someone who doesn't look natural.
I’ve seen too many people give presentations while fidgeting with their pen, a pair of keys in their pocket, or sway back and forth like a statue in the wind – it’s all bad news and makes you look unprepared and unsure.
The best way to overcome this mistake is to record yourself giving your presentation. See yourself in action and actively watch for these little, useless gestures. By doing so, you’ll become more aware and thus better at avoiding them.
Personally, if I notice a particular nervous quirk while replaying my presentation I’ll write it on a big sticky note next to the camera until it is engrained in my brain not to do it.
Remember, it’s critically important to move with confidence and authority. Every movement should be for a purpose, otherwise, you'll simply look nervous and unprepared.
#3: Practice in front of people
Before you deliver your presentation, and after you’ve watched the recording a few times, practice in front of a friend or loved one. This will give you real-world experience speaking in front of other people from the comfort of your own surroundings.
Ask them for their thoughts on how you made them feel. Were you engaging? Did you appear nervous, or were you inviting and entertaining? Did you vary the pitch of your voice, or was it a sleep-inducing monotone?
Video replay will only take you so far, but practicing in front of real people can uncover things you may have never realized. It'll also make you more comfortable speaking in front of a real audience.
Don’t be upset by criticism, remember, they’re here to make your presentation better. Take what you learn and go back to the drawing board, then have them watch your presentation again to gauge improvement.
What's your #1 tip (or fear) when it comes to public speaking? let me know in the comments below!
Key takeaway: public speaking comes naturally to no one. Remember that.
Was Arnold Schwarzenegger born as Mr. Olympia? Certainly not. He had to build his muscles over time and develop his skills to win. Public peaking is no different.
If Steve Jobs can go from being an introverted guy in a garage why can’t you? Any skill can be learned, but the willingness to learn has to come from within. Put in the time and I guarantee you'll reap the rewards!