If you’re struggling with public speaking, that could be holding you and your business back from further success. How, you ask? Well, it’s simple: the ability to communicate effectively is a superpower. If you master the art of getting people to listen to you, chances are, you’ll be able to have a bigger and better impact than ever before. And that is an invaluable asset for you and your business. 

So, to get to the bottom of everything you need to know, we sat down with top public speaking coach – and one of the trainers within the Finesse Consulta communications team – Pia Zammit, to discover the tips you need for public speaking success. 

But first things first. Where does public speaking apprehension come from, anyway?

Let’s just say that you’re not the first person to have nightmares about standing on stage in front of a crowd or even giving a presentation at work. In fact, statistics show that a staggering 74% of people have been proven to share that very same fear. 

But why is ‘stage fright’ such a common source of anxiety for people? Well, there are a few scientifically proven reasons for that.

For starters, it could be a learnt fear. If at some point in your life your primary caregivers expressed fear surrounding public speaking, you would likely have adopted that very same fear on a subconscious level. 

However, public speaking can also be an innate fear, which means that we can’t always help it. If we look back to our cave-dwelling days, having multiple sets of unfamiliar eyes on us often meant that we were in danger. Therefore, public speaking can sometimes trigger a primal fight or flight response in us, resulting in a sudden surge of adrenaline. That same adrenaline is then responsible for all those nasty symptoms we experience when we’re nervous – sweaty palms, dry throat, funny tummies (you get the drift). These symptoms are then recalled the next time we have to speak in public, which creates a lovely cycle of fear. 

A cycle that can, however, be conquered with a few tips, tricks, and guidance. 

So, let’s dive into our top ten tips for breaking out of that nasty cycle!

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Break it down

To begin, let’s dissect the term ‘public speaking.’ You probably associate the phrase with politicians, podiums, and enormous crowds. But, in reality, anything from a simple encounter to an interview – or even a business meeting – is technically a form of public speaking. So, start thinking of it as simply speaking to people in a more public setting – something you’ve undoubtedly done hundreds of times before. 

See? It’s less daunting already. 

Awareness is key.

As with most things in life, being self-aware is crucial. Identify where your fear stems from, and then you can tackle it. Similarly, start to recognise when you use unhelpful phrases like “I am afraid of public speaking” and discover what it actually is about public speaking that frightens you. 

For instance, you might think, “I am afraid of forgetting what I have to say.” Now, that is a more helpful assertion. If that is your main concern, thorough preparation and practice will give you more confidence in your material. And, you can always use notecards to help you out if you stumble…

Consider your non-verbals

While you may be solely concerned with the ‘speaking’ aspect of ‘public speaking’ (which is understandable), you should also consider your non-verbal communication. Did you know that at least 70% of everything we communicate is non-verbal? Shocking, we know.

To make a great physical impression, make sure that you are: adopting a confident stance, using an active and varied voice, and not distracting your audience with too many random movements. 

Prepare, practice, and perform

Simply put, know what you want to say and practice it often. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel. And the more confident you are, the better impression you’ll make.

Tip: Record yourself giving your speech and analyse your body language. If you’re feeling dangerous, you can even practice your speech in front of family, colleagues, and friends.

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Give people a reason to listen to you

The first few minutes of any speech are critical. Start your address strong by hooking your listeners and letting them know why they should be listening to you! Once you know they’re locked in, everything gets easier. It’s worth investing extra time in making sure you start things off on the right foot, as everything will then flow so much better. 

Watch your language!

Too often, we write speeches like we’d write a critical appraisal – adopting a more formal tone, writing longer sentences, and using the passive rather than active voice. But there is a fundamental difference between how we write and how we speak, and that ultimately needs to be reflected in our public speaking.

Know your audience

Know what’s expected of you, who you’ll be addressing, and what’s on the agenda, so you can be direct and speak their language. You don’t want your audience to feel like you’ve wasted their time or, worse, bored them…

Refer, don’t read

Nothing is more off-putting than watching somebody read off a piece of paper or a slide without engaging with their audience. Refer to your notes to keep you on track but don’t depend on them. Being stuck to a paper or screen will inhibit you and cut you off from your audience, which is the last thing you want.

Remember that your ultimate goal is to have people nodding back at you throughout your speech. If you’ve done that – you’ve won!

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Speak to people, not at them

Have a conversation with your audience instead of talking at them – nobody likes that.

Maintain eye contact, ask for questions or feedback, and have fun with it.

What’s the takeaway?

Always tell people what you want them to get from your speech or presentation. Is it information or an action? People tend to remember introductions and conclusions more than anything, so be concise, precise, and memorable in your opening and closing statements. 

What next? 

So, you’ve finished reading this article, but you’re not entirely sure what to do next. Don’t you worry; we’re not going to leave you high and dry like that! If you want to take some active steps towards improving your public speaking skills, why not sign up for our Public Speaking Course here at Finesse Group or by emailing [email protected] for details? With proper guidance, one-to-one coaching, and a tangible toolkit at your disposal, you’ll start to enjoy speaking in public in no time!

Are you looking to hone your public speaking skills? Schedule a call with our CEO, Jo Caruana, today.

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