Public speaking is an opportunity to deliver a message with the hopes of influencing an audience. Therefore, it is important to see this event as an opportunity that must be used very wisely.Naturally, some of the best orators and toastmasters have admitted that they have not fully conquered the anxiety that comes with public speaking. They have however mastered the art of managing their fear of public speaking by engaging several settling activities that enable them connect with the present and take their minds off the fears that play so vividly in their minds. To this end, one must simply remember that the mind is the battlefield. Once the battle has been won in the mind, the task is most completed.
The first step for anyone who needs to engage in any form of public speech is to manage the natural anxiety that comes with approaching an audience. This can be achieved through preparation and practise. Practice makes perfect or, in this case, better.
The next step is to Stage a Presence. Whatever you do, ensure that you command your audience’s attention. Let the audience feel your presence, whether it is by calling out to them or simply by keeping still until they have settled down and are paying attention to you.
It is imperative to note that you have been given the second chance (the first chance is the gift of their presence) once your audience is paying attention to you, you must ensure that it is worth their while – Start Strong.
You can start by asking a question to take a poll or even rhetoric. These usually make for great icebreakers and get your audience engaged. There is a sense of inclusion and your audience doesn’t feel alienated from you. It is very important to engage the use of pronouns that are inclusive. This ensures that your audience feels safe and knows that you are there because you have information that is relevant to them
You may go on to ask your audience to oblige you by participating in an activity that emphasises a message that you are trying to pass across; this reinforces the message – I am in the right place.
Every opportunity you get must be seized as a chance to build on the story that you are telling to make it the masterpiece that you have intended.
While oratory, group or individual activities can be very compelling storytelling methods, it is extremely important that the props and body language are under control as these can be quite distracting. This means that one must ensure that activities and stories are not unwinding and unnecessarily long.
Body Language is a very important tool in public speaking because it represents the materialisation of the content of the speech. Here are a few things to note about body language during public speaking occasions:
- Posture breeds success – because communication begins before a speech, how the body is positioned and how it moves is very important to the success of the speech.
- Gestures: They help to strengthen the message, improve the memory of the speaker and increase chances of recollection by the audience. In short, they make the message that bit more interesting
- Audience: The body language is extremely important as this is a key indicator of how successful the communication effort is. You may find that you need to engage the audience in a physical activity if they seem to be sleepy or regulate the temperature if they seem too restless and distracted by extreme temperatures. If you feel like you are losing your audience you can try to engage them by disrupting or introducing some humour to encourage alertness.
- Stance – How the body is positioned before and during speech is very important to a successful public speaking engagement. Ensure that you engage a friendly posture and your movements are fluid and deliberate.
Most importantly, you must remember that your audience has honoured you by being present and you should thank them for their time/attention.
All the best at your next public speaking engagement; May the audience be kind to you and may you not be sentenced to death by PowerPoint at the next seminar you attend.
Have a productive week and be easy on yourself and others!