Two steps to make public speaking a breeze
Public speaking sucks.
There I said it. That sick, twisted feeling in your stomach. The feeling of dread as you wait to take the stage. I honestly don’t know how people can like it.
The thing about public speaking is we’re so used to watching everyone else do it that as soon as we’re asked to step up to the plate, we immediately start to doubt ourselves.
What am I doing? Am I doing this right? What if I mess up? Somehow, despite hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, the human brain is really good at making us doubt ourselves. How do you get over this?
While I can’t say this awful feeling will go away, I can say there’s a way to get over it.
Remember, the audience wants to hear from you. If they’ve taken the time to sit in a presentation, a lecture hall or in front of a TED stage, they’re waiting to hear someone speak. They’re really interested in what you have to say.
When I was school captain at high school I was excited at first, but pretty soon I realised I’d have to start speaking in front of crowds a lot. Some were easy, but it wasn’t before I was asked to read a poem at a community Anzac Day event that I truly learned what anxiety and dread felt like.
I would be speaking publicly before not only my entire school, but Diggers, servicemen and women, the greater community, and the media. I was representing my school, my community, and my generation.
Needless to say, I was terrified. To prepare myself, I learned the second most important tip.
Make them wait.
At first this might sound counterintuitive. Why would you make people wait - wouldn’t that create a long, dramatic pause?
My public speaking mentor was an English teacher who loved poetry.
In a practice session, she shredded my first attempt and gave me simple instructions: when you’re about to present to a crowd, the first thing you do is take a deep breath. Pause. Take in the crowd and make them wait.
What may feel like an eternity for you is only a few measly seconds for them. Pausing before and throughout your speech – slowing things down – is the key to success.
So, if you’re pitching to a new client, stepping into a group interview, presenting to your colleagues, or speaking in front of a crowd, just remember: make them wait.
That mantra will help remind you that time passes differently for the speaker than it does for the listener.
Remember that when you’re in the limelight, your entire body might be screaming out to run and hide - that’s why these two public speaking tips are so important.
They’ll help you deliver a speech that other people want to listen to – hopefully one they’ll congratulate you for long after the applause fades into the past.
Ross Healy is a Telstra Careers communications and social media specialist.