Friday, 14 July 2017

12 Steps To Help You Speak Publicly With Confidence

Hi Honeys
How do you feel about public speaking?  Are you comfortable standing up and giving a speech or a presentation?  In my youth I was the definition of a shrinking violet.  A serious, don't-even-look-in-my-direction, sits-at-the-back-hoping-no-one-will-notice-her, terrified person.

12 steps to help confident public speaking...

In my late teens I found myself on a community programme run by the BBC which was such fun but which I very stupidly quit.  I gave up my place because I discovered the next part of the programme required me to write a review of a radio show and then give a presentation to our group.  I absolutely froze, felt utterly sick, spent two whole days with my stomach churning, torturing myself with worst case scenarios and then, just like that, I quit.

Instead of seeing this amazing opportunity I'd been given as a chance to grow and develop I allowed my (severe) lack of self confidence to rob me of it.

Fast forward a few years and I'm at College, working my way through an NC in order to be able to gain entry to an HND in Law.  Towards the end of my one year National Certificate course in Office Technology (what does that have to do with law Rosie? well it was actually a Secretarial/Admin course and when teamed with an HND in Law it qualified me as a Paralegal... but I digress)

So, towards the end of my NC course I discovered that one of the units, Communications 4, required me to write a paper and to then give a presentation to the whole class on my paper!  Still a shrinking violet but guess what?  I did it.  I not only did it but I went over my allotted speaking time!  You can do it too honeys and I'll tell you how...


How To Speak publicly With Confidence


The clue is in the heading... confidence.  So, how does a person with, as I had (really acutely) social anxiety get up, walk to the front of a room, turn around to see lots of faces staring back and then find herself able to speak? As it turns out, it's only as difficult as we make it ourselves.  Pretty obvious really, not a secret at all...


As with everything else we do in life, just a little work, and a whole lot of preparation makes the fear go away.  Knowledge is power dear ones. Don't believe me?  I passed both the written and oral parts of my class and the following year, during the first year of my Higher National Diploma class, while studying Media Law, I wrote a paper and gave a presentation on Copyright Law.

By the time I went to University I was taking part in debates and, get this honeys, looking forward to them!  So, where did the little terrified Rosie go then?  As I said, I might have needed a (huge) push to find a little self confidence but once found, that self confidence is yours forever.  Once you know you can do something, you'll always be able to do it.  Knowledge really is power.

How To Speak Publicly With Confidence:  


1. Know your subject.  


There it is, there's the first step towards being a confident speaker.  Knowing as much as you can about the topic of your presentation will give your self confidence a huge boost.  Knowing that you own the topic you're speaking about, enough to answer questions, enough to speak intelligently, enough to make the topic engaging, is the starting point of any presentation.

This is where the work starts.  Don't just read up on your topic, read around the subject too.



2. Use Your Preparation Time Wisely:


Don't waste a minute!  Planning is everything.  What is the expected outcome of your presentation? How do you best achieve that result?  What information are you required to pass on? Is this information easier to illustrate with the help of visuals?   

You'll have to know what you want to say, the order in which you want to say it and how long you'll spend saying it.  Factor in time for questions at the end.  List everything you have to do and divide the time you have to prepare accordingly.  It really does sound so much more complicated than it is I promise.  

3. Know your audience: 


Knowing who you're going to be speaking to, and what their expectations are, helps enormously.  If your presentation is at a workplace, will your setting be a formal one, such as in a boardroom with Heads of Departments present?  Or more casual, possibly in a break room over coffee?  Casual or more formal delivery? This sets the tone.


4. Make Use Of Props.


Presentations which must include facts and figures can be difficult to inject life, enthusiasm and dare I say fun into, but not impossible.  This is where you allow your personality to shine through. Never just stand reciting numbers, your audience will tune out.  Keep things interesting by illustrating your topic with visual aids such as a power point presentation or slides.

If there are a large number of figures or a great deal of information to be covered through your presentation why not prepare a handout which can be taken away and used as a memory prompt later. This will also allow your audience to pay attention to what you're saying without feeling as though they have to scribble down every single thing you're saying.

Provide a space on the handout for notes.  This will allow audience members to write any questions they may wish to ask at the end.


5. Practice!


You've written your presentation.  You've done the research, you've read around your topic so that you know enough to answer any questions that might be asked.  Now you're looking at the final draft of your talk.  Now is where the building bricks of your confidence start to come together.  

Practice reading the speech aloud. How many times? As many as you feel is necessary for you to feel secure in your knowledge of the subject.  Secure enough to eventually be able to give the presentation without your prepared draft... whoa! don't panic!  You can do it! 

If you're able to, it helps to be able to have a run through in the setting you'll be giving your talk. It will give you a "feel" for the location and you'll be far more comfortable on the day.  

6. Use Prompt cards  


Can you imagine anything worse that being invited to a presentation only to find the speaker stands and reads from a script?  It can seem very unprofessional, prevents any chance of building a rapport with your audience and has to be the quickest way to bore people silly.  Again, you have to know what you want to say, the order in which you want to say it and make what you're saying engaging.  

By the time you give your presentation you will have practiced your speech so many times you will have learned it inside and out (see number 5) trust me honeys, you won't need a full print out of your prepared speech all you will need are a small number of clearly printed cards with headings, bullet points, to remind you and to keep you on track. 

7. Think Positively:


Always!  You are your own best cheerleader.  There must be absolutely no room left for self doubt. You've done the work, you're the most prepared you've ever been, you own your topic and your audience wants to learn what you're going to tell them.

Even if you still feel as if you're two steps from having a panic attack inside, on the outside you must be calm, professional, assured.  If you don't feel this way, behave as if you do.  Remember that old "fake it til you make it" saying 😊

Trust me, in no time you will forget any idea that you're wearing a mask because... you've done the work.  You are the articulate, well informed, professional speaker they were expecting.

8. Speak in your own voice:


It can truly be said that familiarity brings confidence.  The more you engage in public speaking the easier it will become.  Honestly!

It can be tempting to allow yourself to speak quickly in order to get through your presentation more rapidly.  For it to be over with.  This should be avoided at all costs.  Back we go to point 5 dear ones, practice, practice, practice.  While reading your final draft aloud to yourself, pay careful attention to your tone, your breathing.

Before the big day, why not ask someone you trust to be your audience for a trial run through?  A friend, partner, family members.  It's so important to be yourself.  You've been asked to speak, given this responsibility, so clearly whoever asked you to do it believes you can do it and you absolutely can.

Speak in your own voice, don't hurry to reach the end.  You've done the work now shine!  If you still feel a little nervous, adopt a persona, wear an invisible mask, hide inside it if you must, but if you behave professionally (even if you're shaking inside) eventually you'll forget to be nervous. 


9. Try To Make Eye Contact:


No, don't just make eye contact and then stare at a single person in the audience.  It will make them terribly uncomfortable and make you seem a little creepy! Instead, try to glance around the room as you speak.  Allow yourself to make brief eye contact randomly with members of the audience, without concentrating for too long on any one person.

Never look down at the floor while you speak.  Remember you're projecting confidence.  You have to be present, engaged with your audience.  Likewise, don't stare at your notes.  This will make you look unprepared.  While speaking lay your cards (with bullet points or headings) in clear sight nearby.  It should be enough (remember the practicing you've done) to merely drop your eyes occasionally to stay on track and on topic.

If you are able to do this one thing, to make eye contact when you speak, you will always be considered trustworthy and credible.  This too though will come with practice.


10. Appearance:


How much easier is it to feel confident when you know you're looking your best?  Remember that mask I said you could wear until you become the fearless, inspiring orator you were meant to be? Consider your appearance to be part of your costume while you act the part of an inspiring, thought provoking presenter of reports.  That person is in there you know, you just haven't found him/her yet... but you will. 

Dress appropriately for the setting you'll find yourself in.  For a formal business setting a suit and tie for gentlemen.  For us ladies a suit too or if you prefer a dress.  

For a slightly less formal environment, follow your instincts but always appear professional and dress smartly.  In all circumstances ladies, keep jewellery and accessories to a minimum.  Too much can be distracting.  You want them to notice your work not your bling.       


11. Smile! 


Still on the subject of accessories.  The best accessory ever is a simple smile! When was the last time you met someone for the first time?  Was that person smiling?  How much better did it make you feel if they were?  A smile can entirely change how someone reacts to you, to what you're saying.  

A smile immediately makes you more approachable, it can make your audience more responsive to your presentation, they will be more engaged in what you're saying.  

While we're talking about being friendly, don't be afraid to add a little humour to your talk.  Be careful to limit it though, a few well placed jokes can break the ice, too many can make you appear unprofessional. This is as true of a workplace presentation as it is of a Best Man's speech. Remember you were given this task because someone believes you can do it well. 


12. Mind Your Time! 


Remember those prompt cards with the bullet points?  Those cards will keep you on track, they'll keep your presentation moving along and will hopefully prevent you from becoming caught up in any one part of your speech for too long.  Keep it snappy, get your message across and leave them wanting more!       

There we have it honeys.  Sounds easy because it genuinely is.  It took me a long time to learn that it was only me holding me back!  You are worth listening to.  You have a powerful voice.  Don't let fear stop the world from hearing it.  Find your voice dear ones. It's there.

Over to you honeys, how do you feel when asked to speak?    Whatever you're doing this weekend, have fun, smile lots and don't miss a chance to hug, till next time dear ones, huggles always xx

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