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Category: Brand · 5 min read

Today's the Day: Master Public Speaking

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on November 15, 2018

author profile photo

on November 15, 2018

Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweaty. Your mind is frantic. They call your name and you walk up to the front of the room. It’s time.   You set your notes down on the stand, clear your throat nervously, and start your presentation.   I used to be this way when it came to speaking. I would get nervous every time I had to stand up in front of people and talk.   And this is a common fear. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 73 percent of the population is affected by public speaking anx

Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweaty. Your mind is frantic. They call your name and you walk up to the front of the room. It’s time. 

You set your notes down on the stand, clear your throat nervously, and start your presentation. 

I used to be this way when it came to speaking. I would get nervous every time I had to stand up in front of people and talk. 

And this is a common fear. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 73 percent of the population is affected by public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, and it’s even feared more than death.1 

But guess what? The more I spoke in public and gave presentations, the less nervous I became. Along the way, I picked up some good habits that have helped me master public speaking and nail my presentations. Here are some simple things you can do right now to feel better about your next speaking gig. 

 

Write a Script

When in doubt, write it out. If you’re nervous, a script can be very helpful. It keeps you on track if you have trouble remembering your place and takes the guesswork out of your presentation. Yes, this means it’s “scripted,” but when it comes to presentations that’s not always a bad thing. Scripting out your presentation also gives you something to memorize, so you can become comfortable with the points you want to make, and the tone you want to have when you’re presenting. All of this will make it sound less “scripted” when you’re up at the podium. Which leads me to my next point… 

 

Rehearse it (Many, Many Times)

This is probably the most important part. The more you practice your presentation, the better it will be on the big day. 

Do you think Steve Jobs instantly knew what to say when he gave his Apple announcements? No. If you wing it, people will notice. So, review your presentation over and over again, until you know the exact order and have a majority of it memorized. Practice in front of a mirror and in front of a small audience (your friends, co-workers, or family). Do whatever it takes to get comfortable giving your speech. 

If you have time to do a practice run with a friend or family member, ask them for their feedback. Be open to what they have to say, and don’t take it too personally. Make sure you practice with someone you know will tell you the truth, because they care about you and your presentation.

 

Make it Interactive and Unique

This isn’t a report, so don’t make it like one. Your presentation should be engaging, not technical or boring. 

To liven it up, get the audience involved. Ask questions, and have the audience raise their hands to be called on, or shout out the answer. Make them interact with you, and make it easy to do so. Don’t ask them trick or hard questions. Have them answer easy, obvious questions, and have a fun time with it. Starting out your presentation with a question gives you a chance to take a deep, calming breath and center yourself while the audience answers and engages with you. 

But there are other ways to liven your presentation besides asking questions. You can also tell a personal anecdote, tell a (G-rated) joke, use props, or show a video. 

 

Less is More

When it comes to putting text on your PowerPoint slides, the fewer words the better. I’ve seen slides that have more than 100 words on them, and it’s not pretty (it’s also extremely hard to read). More importantly, if the audience is trying to read your slides, they likely aren’t hearing what you’re saying. Keep your PowerPoint slides high-level, and then detail them out as you speak. It’s best practice to not read your slides word for word, and, instead, work the points you’re making into your script. In other words, know what’s on your slides and elaborate on them. Think of it this way: Magazine and newspaper captions don’t describe what you see, but instead, they elaborate and add new information to what you’re already taking in. This applies to PowerPoints, as well. 

 

Control Your Body Movements

Do you have a nervous tick? Most of us do. Work on getting rid of it, or at least recognizing that you have one. Film yourself to identify any mannerisms. Then, when you’re speaking, consciously stop yourself from acting on your nervous tick. 

But this goes beyond nervous mannerisms. You also need to be conscious of your body language, so you can come across as confident and in control. To do this, follow these tips:

  • Assume the power position. Keep your shoulders back, align your feet with your shoulders, place your hands on either side of your body, and face the audience.
  • Use hand gestures when you can. They help emphasize a point and are a non-verbal way of showing confidence.
  • Maintain eye contact. This one may be difficult, but keeping eye contact with your audience can instill respect.

 

Tell Stories to Illustrate Your Points

“I have a friend who hates public speaking. He would stress out every time he had to give a speech. But, after a lot of practice and encouragement, he gave a presentation and actually nailed it. How? By using these tips.” Using stories (like this one) to help explain or get your reasoning and concept across can really help your audience understand what you mean. And, if your story is humorous, it can be a good ice breaker.

 

Don’t Make it About You 

This may come as a relief to you, but you are not the star of the presentation. Your audience is the star. Many times, we have a tendency to promote ourselves and our business. Instead, dive right in to your topic and presentation, and if you’re going to talk about yourself, wait until the end of the presentation. That way, the focus is on your message and content from the start, and not on your accomplishments or title. 

It’s never easy to conquer a fear. It takes time, patience, and diligence. But if you want to master the art of public speaking, these tips can help you get there. 

To master more skills and build your brand, check out our Brand Builder, which features tools that can help grow your brand and business. 

 

Source:

1. National Social Anxiety Center. “Public Speaking Anxiety.” 2017. Web. https://nationalsocialanxietycenter.com/social-anxiety/public-speaking-anxiety/.

 

For Financial Professional use only, not for use with the general public. #18-0826-110519

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Written By

Mark Williams

President and CEO

Mark Williams is the President/CEO of Brokers International. Over his more than 25 years of financial services experience, Mark has been both a producing independent agent in the field and a home office leader consulting to agencies and field marketing organizations. Currently, Mark is focused on the future of the insurance industry, from the disruptions of InsurTech and robo-advisors to the changing demographics and needs of customers. He also is an avid mentor, helping financial professionals navigate the industry.

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