I love speaking engagements ... most of the time. There are a few horror stories where I have got it wrong and bombed out and I still go hot and cold when I remember them! However, I'm still alive, my reputation intact and love speaking in public ...
My secret to learning to love it? I learned from analysing the times when it goes well and what was different when I crashed and burned. So if you're having trouble standing up and speaking in public then maybe my top eight tips may help.
- I only talk about something I'm passionate about and really know the subject. That way I keep my energy up and enjoy the experience. Even if I forget my script I can keep going.
- I must know who my audience is and what they expect. I also need to care about them and believe that engaging with me and my subject will help them. If I love them then they will love me.
- Prepare well. Have a clear brief and a clear message and prepare it thoroughly, including how to deal with questions or disruptions. I have a detailed script with timing and follow it exactly. I know I said above that I can keep going if I forget my script, but I also know I tend to babble if I don't follow a structure! The best ad-libbers in the business world still work to some sort of a script, no matter whatever they tell you!
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. That way if the nerves get to me the rehearsal is still in my head and the right words come out. I always have notes or some form of autocue but only as a reminder. I never read straight from my notes as I always end up sounding monotonous and bore the pants off my audience.
- Keep it simple. My biggest blushes have come when I have tried to be too clever! So now I use the language and content I would use naturally if talking to any single member of that audience.
- Power point technology is useful as a visual complement to what I'm talking about but not as an autocue. I avoid it whenever possible.
- I only do small events. I like to interact directly with my audience, so for me small is beautiful and I say "no" to the Royal Albert Hall when asked.
- Afterwards I always remind myself of a comment a wise counsellor told me many years ago. "Being imperfect is what makes you lovable." When it hasn't gone to plan then I just tell myself "I was practicing my lovability!"
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