Public Speaking. Just the thought of it seems to trigger anxiety in a number of people. What if the audience is hostile towards me? What if I go blank? What if I look awkward?
Most fears about public speaking stem from our fear of being judged. We get so carried away with the concern of being criticized that we forget the original scope – the opportunity to share our message with others.
As a public speaking coach, I have had the opportunity to research, observe and guide a number of business professionals in the art and science of public speaking. I would like to share with you some of my favourite tips that will enable you to feel more confident when you stand to speak.
- Engage in Belly Breathing
If you want to benefit from releasing anxiety, tension in your voice and tightness in your chest refrain from shallow breathing – which is breathing only up to our chest. Instead, ensure that you go for deep belly breathing, engaging your diaphragm and filling your lungs with air. When you breathe deeply at a controlled pace, you benefit from a clearer mind, you’ll calm down a racing heart and you will even have a stronger voice. Remember that your breathing is your centre. You always need to come back to the breath, for the breath is where comfort exists for you.
- Play with Vocal Dynamics
How you say something can be just as important as what you say. So to speak effectively, think about utilising your vocal expressiveness. When you engage your vocal dynamics your audience will stay more tuned and attentive. Amongst the vocal tools to consider is your level of energy and emphasis. Emphasis is the stress you place on important ideas, which needs to be accompanied with enough energy so that your voice encompasses your audience. Another vocal tool is varying your pitching. By inflecting your pitch, you add colour and excitement to what you say. A pitch without any variation is called a ‘mono-tone’, which is where we get the word monotonous. A speaker who uses pitch inflection, however, is much easier and enjoyable to listen to. Audiences also need a varied pace to stay interested. If you’re completely invested in what you’re saying, your rate and rhythm will vary naturally, since ideas and emotions change constantly throughout a speech. Do not forget the power of silence. Pauses work wonderfully to create suspense, emphasis, to bridge ideas and to transition between points. When you combine the elements of tone, richness, pleasantness, and emotional connection in your vocal quality your audience will enjoy listening to you so much more.
- Stand Ready to Speak
When public speaking, you need to exhibit physical presence and that starts with your posture. To display a sense of authority it is essential that you stand or sit with your back straight. By doing so, you will not only make your voice stronger and clearer, by allowing you to breathe deeper, but you will also look more confident. Place your feet parallel to your shoulders, push your shoulders blades back and down, open up your chest and lift the top of your head towards the ceiling. The more space you create in your body, the easier it is for you to breath well, speak with a powerful voice and look poised. A strong posture allows you to broadcast confidence and bring out the leader in you.
- Stay Focused
Focus is one of your most important tools as a speaker since you may be physically present but you need to ensure that you are mentally and emotionally present as well. Do not allow distracting thoughts to creep in at the time of speaking. Instead, let intrusive thoughts float away. This requires practicing a disciplined mind so that when disturbing thoughts intrude, you will allow them to drift away. A good system for practising staying focused is engaging in mindful exercises. Mindfulness means being fully attentive to the here-and-now. Be patient as mindfulness takes time to attain and the key to achieving it is to make it a daily habit.
- Visualize a Successful Outcome.
Professional athletes do a lot of visualizing and it is worth considering joining them. The practice of visualizing your goals as already complete can rapidly accelerate your achievement goals and ambitions. Here is how you can learn to use positive visualization to create a successful presentation. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and imagine, in as vivid detail as you can, yourself delivering your presentation with full ease and confidence. Visualise your audience looking attentively at you and nodding. The more time you spend anticipating positive outcomes, the more you are preparing your mind for the real game.
- Connect with your Audience
One of the most effective ways to build rapport with your audience is to take a moment to allow that to happen. When it’s your turn to speak, take a moment to pause and gather your power as a speaker, establish eye-contact with your audience and extend a gentle smile. Show the audience that you are pleased to be there. Invest yourself in this moment. Then you can proceed to initiating your speech.
- Be Yourself!
Keep in mind that your objective is not to be the next Barack Obama or Oprah Winfrey, but it is to stay authentic to who you really are. It is time to bring out the real you!
This article was originally featured on the Times of Malta.
Michelle Fenech Seguna is the Founder and Director of Speak to Move, offering professional training programmes which enable participants to communicate confidently and present powerfully in business and social situations. Michelle is based in Malta, where she offers executive coaching and corporate group training. To know more about Speak to Move services you can reach Michelle Fenech Seguna on email@example.com
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