Tips for Public Speaking
Today I thought I'd share some materials I put together to help friends and colleagues with public speaking. From my experience at A1 Speakers, Newcastle Toastmasters and listening to far far too many personal development podcasts I put the following tips together.
So without further ado...
It may seem impossible to feel some to feel comfortable speaking in front of others, but it can be done. Ways to increase your comfort include learning about the space in which you'll be presenting. In my first foray at Toastmasters I was invited to the front of the room during the break. Standing there, surveying the room, with no pressure on me allowed me to become comfortable with my surroundings. Clearly it worked as in the next session I volunteered to speak, something I initially thought unimaginable.
When you know you have to give a talk, learn about your surroundings, put yourself there directly, stand as you would stand when you're needed to present. Get comfortable, get used to how you will physically feel on the day, it'll truly help you process it mentally.
Know Your Audience
You should know the points you're trying to get across to your audience, and you likely know many different ways you could express your point, so how are you going to do that?
Appeal to your audience, if they're not there to see you directly, how can you appeal to their sensitivities? Think about it logically, if you were a standup comic opening for a larger act would you change your performance? Maybe not if you were opening for both Ross Noble and Frankie Boyle, but what if you were opening for Ricky Gervais and Ken Dodd?
Content can be similar and the message the same, but deliver it in a way your audience will engage with. Be a chameleon, be Bowie.
Embrace the silence
Hello darkness my old friend... No matter how long you think you've been silent for, you've been quiet for less. When speaking, people often become a sugar-addled deer in headlights with an ideological war on silence.
Silence in public speaking is incredibly powerful. Think of those douchey hipster rah kids at university who took one lecture in French cinema and decided they were deeply into world culture and their critiques of film "it's the things they didn't say that hit me the most". Assholes. However they must have heard it from someone who knows what they're talking about as silence is a fantastic tool in delivery and narration.
Silence can stand out in speaking, give people a moment to think and reflect on what you've just said. Don't be afraid of silence when speaking, embrace it, your audience won't find it awkward unless it goes on for fifteen minutes. The time not talking can also be used to breath, a common trend enjoyed amongst the living.
Keep track of time
Make sure you have a timepiece (look at me with this posh parlance) to hand prior to speaking. Know how long your speaking appointment should last and be aware if you have any restrictions such as a Q&A. Your content should match the time allotted to you, you're not going to be able to read the complete works of Stephen King in a 15 minute slot, much like you would be feeling pretty lonely and sheepish if you attempt to stretch a limerick across an hour long keynote.
When you know how long you'll be required to speak for divide up your talk in to sections and assign time limits to each one. Keep this rough guide in mind when you're presenting, hopefully this will give each of your points the time it deserves and you can avoid squeezing 80% of your salient points in to the last 30 seconds before you're carried off the stage.
Nobody plays dorky teen-20s-30s-how-old-is-he-now loser like Michael Cera, in fairness though he's had a lot of practice. Since making us feel incredibly awkward in Arrested Development as George Michael Bluth, Cera has embodied that character in multiple roles, and you know what, he's pretty damn good at it.
You know what, if you also dedicate your time to something, practice and repeat you will improve too. Your speech should be no different. Work on it, deliver it in front of the mirror, to your pets, to your partner. Just keep swimming.
Find a buddy
Present your speech to someone, deliver it as you plan to and then ask for honest and constructive feedback. You may believe that everyone wants to know about the political affiliations of famous cartoon characters and that your speech including impressions may be a highlight to any lucky audience member's life. Your friend will let you know if they agree. They should also not allow you to make an absolute fool of yourself.
Practice and ask for feedback, take it onboard and practice again. One thing you may also ask your buddy to do is to spot your crutches and filler-words. Get them to highlight and count your 'ums', 'ahs', 'mmmmm', and pregnant 'soooooooos'. This will hopefully make you more aware of them allowing you to speak with greater purpose.
Burn your notes
Your audience is interested in you and your content. You clearly know quite a bit about said content as you're delivering a talk on it. Sounds like you're a pretty interested expert source on this topic. If you aren't why are you speaking, if you are, why do you have your notes in your face making you look like a comedy spy?
Your presence on stage is important, free up your hands and burn your notes. Speak freely, expressing your points. You may read verbatim what's on your page, you may fidget and find your notes uncomfortable, you could end up staring at your notes looking down at the floor ignoring your audience totally. Know what stops that?
Not having notes.
When you're faced with a stressful situation your body enters 'fight or flight'. You get hormones giving you the energy to run the hell away and never return or throw down to win the Royal Rumble and head straight to Wrestlemania. This is figuratively speaking of course.
Use the adrenaline in your body for a positive thing. Use the nervous energy you have to empower you, become the showperson you had no idea who you could be. Embrace the energy you have, all that feeling you have to just walk off the stage, use it to make your performance more animated. Think gripping and engaging, less Looney Tunes.