Public speaking can be a frightening prospect for anyone. But it’s a lot like diving into a swimming pool. You’re nervous at first, maybe even uncomfortable, and then you start enjoying it! Exuding confidence and delivering your message with clarity is extremely important, no matter the nature of the engagement or the size of the audience. You can become adept at public speaking, whether it’s voicing your concerns at a meeting, delivering a webinar or conference call, or giving a talk or keynote speech at a conference.
Here’s how you prepare for a top-notch delivery for your next speaking engagement!
Best Practices Before Public Speaking
It’s always seems more nerve-wracking preparing for a speech if you don’t know much about the topic.
You’ve probably heard the advice “just be prepared” before, but it’s not exactly inciteful. How much information can you give in the allotted time? What happens if you forget what you wanted to say? What should your audience expect?
For instance, if you’re an attorney giving a talk about a new law that passed, you’d have to prepare for your peers differently than if you were addressing everyday people affected by the law.
The more you know about the topic and the more realistic your expectations about the attendees, the more your confidence will shine through. You won’t even realize you’re talking to a room full of strangers.
Physically prepare your throat
Stay hydrated! Get your coffee or tea ready, and always keep some water nearby. If you’re in the midst of cold and flu season, keep a packet of lozenges handy.
This is especially crucial for a live event like a speech or meeting. Keep a water bottle with you if there’s no time to get water at the event or the organizers don’t have it out for the speakers.
Practice you’re speech
Use any method that works for you. Practice in front of a mirror, with a friend or family member, or record yourself with your phone and play it back to see how you sound.
Where do you sound confident? Where do you keep slipping up? This can help you address what to cut from your talk or where you can improve so you can deliver the message more articulately.
If possible, ask a colleague who’s familiar with the topic to give you feedback on what you’re discussing. You can rehearse with them and get pointers for what the audience will find helpful.
Tips to Help You Make Your Point
Speak in the moment and, better yet, utilize audience participation
It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking at a team meeting or a conference: People like engaging talks that get them fired up and passionate about the topic, as opposed to hearing a lecture from a slide deck.
Having a pleasant-looking presentation is only half the battle. When deciding how you’ll deliver your talk, once again, remember your audience. What kind of takeaway do you want to give the attendees? What is this audience going to find helpful or valuable?
Audience participation, whether six team members or one of 50 convention attendees, is a mutually beneficial way to bolster your efforts to be a confident and engaging public speaker. Ask by a show of hands what they think of an idea, concept, or statistic. Tell them you want to hear about a particular problem they want solved, and incorporate answers and feedback.
Envision your story
TedTalk Speaker, ERG Expert, and author Lola Adeyemo, is an expert at public speaking. Her talk “Belonging is Not About Fitting In” provided personal stories about understanding barriers and encouraging empathy.
“When preparing for a speaking engagement and putting my presentation together, I envision the story I want to share with my audience and draft a loose agenda slide. I craft a captivating title that sets the stage for what’s to come, outline the agenda that guides my narrative, and dive into creating compelling slides.”Lola Adeyemo
Edit after your first draft
Lola also provided insight on her editing process. Speech writing, much like any other type of writing, takes time and practice. “As I immerse myself in the content creation process, I discover that themes and insights emerge organically that I know will be impactful,” said Lola.
“I prepare like I am walking them through it in my mind. In real-time, I adapt my agenda to accommodate these powerful moments of connection and end with a final stab at the title. I use my agenda not as a rigid script but as a compass, always pointing me toward the story I intend to tell and the impact I want to make. The two questions that constantly echoes in my mind is this: Am I genuinely conveying the story I set out to tell with my content? Am I leveraging the right story to get this message across?”
Common Public Speaking Mistakes
Presenting yourself confidently on stage also means avoiding common first time public speaking mistakes. Thankfully, Lola is here to offer her insight on the common mistakes she’s seen in her career.
“Hiding behind the podium: Step away, open your arms, and invite the audience to listen and connect. People absorb more of your content when you present a conversation instead of reading off and keeping their eyes on the screen. Keep their eyes on you!”
When you become familiar with the topic and the type of audience you’re speaking to, public speaking can become a fun and exciting way to grow your career! Plus, as a professional woman, mastering public speaking can be a game-changer for your career or business. Join the International Association of Women to learn from amazing women like Lola and dream, rise, lead!