leadership

Three tips for rocking the public speaking stage

Yamini Naidu /

We asked a number of leading women who are speaking at the upcoming She Leads Conference what they’d like younger women to know about navigating their leadership pathway. Below, Yamini Naidu, global thought leader in business storytelling, shares three tips on how to rock at public speaking.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld says that when it comes to a funeral, most people would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy. Anecdotal evidence supports this: people rate public speaking as one of their top fears.

Why? Presenting is a time when you can be at your most vulnerable in your professional life. You have to perform or die.

Our two biggest fears as adults are of failing or embarrassing ourselves in public. A presentation presents both these opportunities on a silver platter.

To add to this potent mix, when you stand up to speak, all your other insecurities are guaranteed to come flooding to the surface. Will they like me? I should have worn the other dress? Does my bum look big in this? D’OH!

Here are my three sure-fire secrets to help you rock that next presentation.

Get over yourself. Our response to presentation pressure is to become a low-resolution, shrink-wrapped version of ourselves.

This is why you often see normally funny, animated people turn into wooden robots when presenting. Matt Church, in his best-selling book, Amplifiers, advises: “If you focus on you when you speak, you are bound to be undone. Everything becomes an ‘I’ issue: ‘I am not prepared’; ‘I am not qualified’.

“These concerns are not the result of narcissism, but the natural result of speaking in front of other people. The first step is to get over yourself.”

Get out of your own way for presentation success. Focus instead on connecting with your audience.

Have them at hello. The first few moments of your presentation are really important: can you get your audience to connect with you? This is also when your heart is racing, your adrenaline surging and you’re at your most nervous.

Carolyn Creswell, CEO of Carman’s muesli empire, was presenting at a 7.30am breakfast. She started by saying: “When the alarm went off this morning, I thought this breakfast seminar better be good. And then I thought: shit I better be good!” The audience laughed and connected with Creswell straight away.

Consider what your audience might be thinking about, and try to tap into it. To borrow a phrase from the film Jerry Maguire, you need to have them at ‘hello’. When your audience laughs and relaxes, so will you.

Smash that fourth wall. In the TV sitcom Modern Family, all the characters have turns speaking directly to the camera in a break-the-fourth-wall style confessional.

There is the same metaphoric fourth wall between you and your audience when you present. Your goal as a presenter should be to break that barrier.

Standing behind a lectern or speaking to your slides, rather than your audience, leave your audience feeling disconnected. Instead, share the real you through a captivating or humorous opening.

Learning and using people’s names also works towards dissolving that fourth wall and immersing your audience in your presentation.

That’s the secret sauce – it’s really that simple.

To nail your next presentation, keep three things in mind: get over yourself, captivate your crowd from the outset and smash that fourth wall.

Your audience will get to know the real you, and you will shine on stage.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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