For most people, public speaking is right up there with heights, spiders and death as one of the greatest fears we have. In fact, it is commonly held to be our number one fear. However, preparing for a 10 minute talk about your business is really no different to preparing for a one on one sales meeting.
Get your public speaking mind-set right
The first thing to recognise is that you already have more courage than most for being willing to stand up and speak publicly to a group. Give yourself a pat on the back for that! Most people will go through their whole adult lives, doing everything they can to avoid public speaking. Such is the lasting trauma of school speech day!
The second thing to remember is that no one listening to you wants to see you fail and go down in a burning heap of “UMs”, incoherent mumbling or paper shuffling. Everyone who is watching knows how you feel and wants you to succeed. There’s no need to feel like you’ll look stupid because that’s not how people will see you if you make a genuine attempt to do a good job.
Don’t imagine everyone naked. If your audience is exceptionally ugly, it will only put you off and if you lock eyes with someone you find attractive, your embarrassment will only grow!
Having the right mind-set is half the battle to public speaking. If you believe the crowd is on your side, what is there to fear?
Prepare properly before attempting to speak publicly
Mark Twain said; “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech”.
Don’t ever stand up to talk about something that you know nothing about. With practice, you will get better at speaking off the cuff. But if you’re going to stand up without any real knowledge of your topic, you’ll look foolish, arrogant and turn a sympathetic audience into a heckling mob!
Preparing for those school speech days, I was always overwhelmed with the process of memorising a speech from start to finish. Few of us have memories good enough to do this effectively. And carrying a copy of a scripted speech tends to descend into long pauses while you find your place.
Assuming you know your topic inside-out, all you need to create a speech is a series of prompts to guide you through your talk like stepping-stones along a path. Start your notes by creating a topic for your talk. It shouldn’t be so broad that you’ll struggle to impart enough information in the time allowed.
Next, add sub headings as your stepping-stones. Notes under these sub-headings can act as prompts to mention important points of interest. If you have time, asking your audience a question can often give you direction or a moment to collect your thoughts.
Get to the venue early and ensure that everything you need is ready. There’s nothing worse than a last-minute panic to throw you off your game.
When speaking, make yourself heard by the people at the back of the room, use plain English and explain terms that may be jargon to your audience. Pause for breath.
Remember that your audience is on your side!