Many people dread the thought of public speaking, myself included. However, if you are an entrepreneur, solo operator or running a small company there will come a time when you are going to have to step out onto the stage and perform. Yes, it’s called making a speech. One of the most nerve racking experiences apart from doing a bungee jump – somehow that just scares me more! To deliver a good speech, let alone a great speech, you need to view what you are doing as a performance rather than making a presentation.  You need to see yourself as the prima ballerina of your company and you need to practice your craft until it becomes effortless so that you alone are seen as the expert in the room.

Follow the steps listed below and you will soon be giving a first-class performance.

  1. Watch the experts in action and notice their style and habits – what can you learn from them? Look at people both in and outside of your industry. Great examples of good public speakers are: Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Cheryl Sandberg, Martin Luther King Jr, Margaret Thatcher, HRH Prince of Wales and President Barak Obama. Watch how they deliver those important speeches and ask yourself what are their key messages, how quickly do they speak, how often do they pause, how much eye contact do they make with their audiences?
  2. Regardless of how many times you’ve made a speech there is always room for improvement. It’s great if you got public speaking experience but don’t become over confident and think that you can just turn up and present without doing your homework! You might get away with it a couple of times but eventually you will be caught out.
  3. Your opening statement needs to ‘pack a punch’ – tell a joke – probably one of the hardest things to do unless you are a stand-up comedian, or share a shocking statistic, ask a question and get the audience to participate by a show of hands or by using an interactive voting system. Julie Hall, CEO and founder of Women Unlimited, always creates an uplifting energy in the room by sharing a funny video.
  4. Arrange your presentation into digestible chunks but remember that you want your audience to walk away with at least three points from your talk that remain at the forefront of their mind.
  5. Preparation includes taking care of yourself so makes sure that you run through your speech the day before with a friend, get a good night’s sleep and don’t drink alcohol to the point where you wake up with a hangover. And when presenting make sure you have room temperature water at hands.  Cold water makes the throat constrict.
  6. On the day of your speech make sure you arrive with enough time to settle yourself. Take time to visit the room you will presenting in and run through your speech. Becoming familiar with the room and how it’s set up technically will help settle any nerves and you should always remember to test the equipment.
  7. One of the most common errors people make when giving a speech, especially if they are new to public speaking, is they rush through their presentation. You need to slow down so that people can actually take on board what you are saying. If in doubt record yourself and play it back, if you are speaking faster than the anchor person on the news you know it’s too fast.
  8. Even the best of speakers use notes/q-cards as a guide for their speech but they are not used as a crutch. Notes help the speaker keep on track and therefore they should be bullet points with no more than 3-4 words per point – if you can use one then that’s all the better but remember your notes should not be a script.
  9. When you stand up to speak walk slowly to the podium and wait a few seconds, suddenly an eerie silence will descend on the room, you then know you have everyone’s attention and you can start your presentation.
  10. Be authentic –people can hear it in your voice when you are authentic and they will love you for it.

Getting up and talking in public takes a lot of courage and like most things in life the more you do it the better you become. So what are you waiting for?

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