11 February 2013

10 Tips to Help Diminish Your Public Speaking Anxiety

Many people fear public speaking but there are many simple things that can make a difference. Let’s take a look at 10 of the top pointers.

  1. What’s my message? Try a mind map to chunk out the key topics. It’s the fastest way to order your thoughts.
  2. Don’t waste time on a fluffy start. Get straight to the point. An audience doesn’t want to hear how glad you are to be there, how kind the organisers are or other padding. Instead they want you to cut to the chase.
  3. Begin with a story relevant to your topic. Stories reach the emotions – let them do the work. Don’t preface them with ‘I’m going to tell you a story about ….’. Just tell it.
  4. Act out a point, adding emotion and action, rather than telling it from a third party perspective. Picture yourself acting out this:
    ’It’s a warm Saturday spring morning in Montpellier and I’m standing at the cheese stall in the cobbled town square. The pleasantly ripe odour of old socks is wafting off a particularly ripe St Emilion Brie and I’m thinking ‘this one’s the keeper’ when suddenly a loud BANG frightens the living daylights out of everyone’ or ‘I was buying cheese stall at a market in France when I heard a loud bang.’ Which gets your juices going?
  5. Don’t try to cover too much. Less is better. Three points are usually about as much as we can do justice, and all our audience will retain. Many beginning speakers try to cover everything they know on a topic. Result – a superficial commentary.
  6. This is a good framework:
    Opening
    Three points. Follow each point with three relevant expansions such as an application, statistics, more detail, story or research.
    Close. A succinct summary of what you’ve talked about and a call to action.
  7. Practice. If you’re not a confident speech-maker, if it’s important to make a strong impact, or you need a great outcome, write your speech out in full. This helps clarify your thinking.
    Draw a very wide margin at one side of your page and beside each paragraph jot down the key point.
    Read the speech aloud about 10 times, aiming to remember as much as you can.
    Then practice giving the speech just from the key points. Try not to look at the full script.
    Transfer the key points to small cards you can hold in your hand or park on the lectern.
    DON’T read your speech – you lose the connection to your audience.
  8. Don’t try and be word-perfect. No-one else knows what erudite phrases and flowing language you had on the original script. It’s better to speak naturally and from the heart.
  9. Beware of PowerPoint. It’s got a place – but it’s dreadfully over-used and lazy speakers use it as a crutch. Most PowerPoint users put far too much information on the slides, read the points (and your audience can read!), hide behind the lectern, and low lights are an instant invitation to nod off! Instead, leave the datashow in its bag – they’ll love you for it. They don’t want you lost in the bowels of your technology: they want you to talk to them, to reach them, to make a heart-to-heart connection.
  10. To gain more confidence at speaking, join Toastmasters. They’re a great training ground. Practice makes perfect, and constant practice surprisingly quickly desensitises us to the pain and anxiety!




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