Really? Public speaking is no easy task. Over the years, I have found ways to master it with some ease. Lately I can even say that I enjoy it tremendously. Here are some of my “secrets”:
1. Choose a subject you feel passionate about and study up ahead of time. I think presenting something you care about is like meeting your beloved after a long absence. You would show lots of care and attention, and most of all, passion! No audience wants to hear something boring, blah and loveless. If you don’t have any emotional connection with the subject matter, why should they?
2. Practice talking about it every opportunity you get. Professionally, I study and facilitate therapeutic groups day in and out. Before I’m asked to speak on any given subject, I have had hundreds if not thousands of practice time talking and working through the material. By the time I step on the podium, I have gathered much data on what works and what doesn’t. This makes me feel confident as a subject matter expert and it shows when I present.
3. Take several deep breaths to center yourself. When you take deep breaths, you oxygenate the whole body. As a result, you will be in a calmer state of mind, and put your body more at ease, and feel less anxious. I can’t tell you how many times when my mind starts to race before public speaking, this simple step helps me slow down and live in the present moment.
4. Stay in the present moment. As I mentioned before, our mind usually gets ahead of our senses, and it causes unnecessary anxiety. In the therapeutic language, we call it “future-tripping”. One way to stay in the here and now is to focus on the breath. Feel the breath in and out of your body. Another way is to just focus on the task at hand, no more no less. When your mind wanders, you simply acknowledge it and bring it back to the present moment.
5. Use an appropriate quote or tell a relevant story to capture the essence of the topic. Often time either the quote or the story adds so much human interest to the topic. Don’t know about you, I enjoy a good quote or story anytime of the day. Somehow it makes any serious topic more relatable and bring it closer to home.
6. Make interpersonal connections. When speaking, be aware of your audience and mindful of their presence. Are they energetic or tired, curious or closed? Make conscious efforts to empathize and connect. Your audience will respect that and give you the attention you need to make meaningful connections.
When everything works well, public speaking is rather rewarding. Usually when I am finished, I feel that my audience and I once again chose to connect, learn and grow together. I truly believe that part of my humanity is forever enriched because of the experience!