I was very nervous the first time I was a hired speaker. Did I have the right materials to present? Would they understand what I was trying to convey? Would they take me seriously as a speaker? Heck, would my voice even carry to the back of the room? Filled with all these fears and doubts I started my presentation. My voice cracked and didn’t sound like it was even mine.
To build up my confidence, I tried to cloak myself in the garb of a professional career coach. I pretended to be an expert. However, like all lies, my audience could see right through it. I could feel connect between me and the audience disappear. I could see their disinterest mount. I felt lost. My mind swirled. I did the best to grasp to this persona of expert to try to control the room. Moreover, to my shock and relief, the fire alarm went off. Yes, in the middle of my first paid speaking gig the entire room had to evacuate the building. Relief rushed over my face, and then embarrassment. What would happen if no one came back?
As I waited on the street with the other attendees, I started talking to them one on one. What were they looking for from the class? What did they need? What did they hope to walk away knowing? And person by person the fake “professional expert” Melissa faded and the Melissa, who had tools and insight to help them emerged. When we did re-enter the building, and thankfully most of the attendees decided to come back, I threw out my presentation and started fresh, and from my heart.
This experience and many since then has shown me the importance of being authentic when I speak. I am a unique being with unique insights and unique experiences to share. I do not have to be a crisp errorless expert on the subject matter. I only have to be an expert of my life. What I share now comes from the heart. I share what I know. I share it in my voice and my words. And I learn that people connect to me better when they can see the real Melissa on the stage and not someone pretending.
Here are a few tangible ways to both get past your fear of speaking and to maximize the effectiveness of your speaking:
Unless you are an actor by training, you can not get away with being anyone else, so don’t even bother trying. Plus by being your true authentic self provides the platform to have a genuine connection to your audience.
Say What You Know
One of the ways we disconnect from our audience is by sharing the work and thoughts of others. Being a parrot of someone else’s work undermines one as a speaker. Although you might want to have research to back up your premise, be sure what you are speaking about is something you know and believe.
Say It with Your Words
I have a friend who teaches nutrition. Five-dollar words runoff her tongue easily and smoothly. Personally, I cannot remember the term let alone pronounce it. We all have different speaking styles, vocabularies available to us, and rhythms in speaking. Uncover and embrace your unique style.
Create a Pre-Speech Routine
No matter if you are a first-time speaker or a world-renown speaker, there are still butterflies. Find the pre-speech routine that works for you. Bo Eason, ex-NFL player turned Broadway star and inspirational speaker, told me he likes to “own” the stage. Before he speaks, and anyone enters the room he mentally and physically takes ownership of the room. He also has an extensive list of physical and verbal exercises he performs before speaking publically. Personally I go into meditation and connect with my center before I speak. Try different ways to prepare and see what works best for you.
Don’t Rely on PowerPoint
I love PowerPoint, and I usually do use slides. However, I use them as visual enhancements for my audience, not as crutches for my speaking. People come to hear you speak not to hear you read from a projected book. Use your presentation as a secondary way to reiterate your points, but focus on what you are saying verbally.
There are many other tips and points which can help you make the most of your presentations. I find, however that focusing on speaking from the heart, in your unique style, with confidence coming from a desire to share provides the best platform for a powerful presentation, and it might even help you have fun during your next speech.
I want to take the business of me to the next level! I’m looking for an executive coach that will provide hands-on instruction, feedback and counseling to help me move my career and business forward. I need someone who will check in with me on a regular basis! I want to make more money!
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