When I started public speaking, I noticed that in some speeches, I was very confident, while some speeches I felt like leaving the stage in the middle of my presentation. Here are some take-aways that have helped me as I struggled and survived through my speeches. This is not a comprehensive list, but a sure shot starter package. You will have your own list as you grow!
1. Start out loud
I noticed that in my few speeches, I started soft and my energy level only went down from there, my confidence only faded from there, my message only lost the impact from there. Then, I had a different opening of my same speech, for which I had to speak my first few sentences aloud … I noticed that audience gave their 100% attention and were with me and understood my message. This gave me confidence to continue and complete my speech without worrying about am I making an impact?
2. Prepare Well
Work on the material that you intend to present. Know which line, statement, gesture is there in the speech and why? Get all the data and numbers corrected and verified; know the sources. Give your speech to a mentor, friend, or a relative for a quick review. Once, you know that your material is ready and is going to add a bit to the audience knowledge, you are ready to practice.
For all my big platform speeches, I do thorough research, do a spell check, get my grammar corrected, get a proofreading done; this help me improve the quality /standard of my speeches.
3. Keep an easy structure
Structure/organize your speech in an easy to follow format. This will help you memorize your entire speech and not worry (too much) about forgetting it. E.g I have three steps to address this problem and they are A, B, C. We will now go in detail of each of these steps to see how it works! OR have an acronym defined, E.g: SWIM, S stands for …. Strength, W-Wellness, I- Integrity, and M- Mindfulness. Take note cards with you for back up.
I usually keep a transition line when moving from one topic/story to other and I also keep a body gesture that go along with that line (mostly a walk across the stage or in certain character!)
My mentors told me that there is nothing called over-practice when it comes to public speaking! Practice hard. The more you practice, the better you would feel about your speech. Practice it alone, in front of a mirror, in your car, in front of someone whom you are comfortable with. Record the audio and listen to it as frequently as you could. Maybe a watching a video of yourself. Sometimes I just watch my video on mute to observe some body-language patterns or any habits that I must address! Before delivering the speech to the big audience, practice in front of dummy audience (be it your family members!)
5. Don’t judge yourself while delivering and … continue till the end
Never evaluate yourself while delivering your speech. Your hands and legs might shake, stomach might churn, heart rate increases; but audience does not notice that. Don’t worry about a little mud on the shoes, or if your make up still on or if you have gained some weight or is your outfit wrinkly? You got my point, right? Audience (most of them) do not care about how you feel about and within yourself; instead they just look for what advice/message you can give to them. Remember, even if you are stuck, take a deep breathe, glance into your notes and step into the presentation with the same confidence. Remember, your audience would appreciate if you complete your speech instead of leaving them hanging !