Find yourself in a cold sweat when standing in front of an audience? You're not alone. According to a Chapman University survey, public speaking remains one of America's top fears. Public speaking is a difficult process and skill for many to master.
Even the most polished speakers deal with nerves (myself included). If you're a CEO or a budding entrepreneur, lacking confidence in your speech-giving abilities could seriously hurt your business. Whether you're addressing a small group of investors or hundreds of people, if you can't captivate an audience, you could miss out on some serious career-building opportunities.
As a keynote speaker, I've spoken in front of hundreds of people, with rooms packed to the brim with clients, investors, and colleagues. Even with more than a decade of experience under my belt, do I still get nervous? You bet.
However, feeling anxious and tense isn't a bad thing. In fact, those butterflies in your stomach could actually make you a better presenter in the long run. Taking the time to master your public speaking skills can do wonders in propelling your career. So don't let your nerves get the best of you.
Use these three tips for public speaking with confidence:
1. Speak unnaturally slowly.
If you're finishing your speech sooner than you anticipate, you're likely talking too fast. Rushing through your speech means you're less attentive to your audience. Plus it's a surefire way to expose your nerves, lose the audience's attention and make mistakes.
Do yourself a favor and slow down--way down. Talk at a speed that feels awkwardly slow (because chances are, this is the right speed you should be at). Don't forget to take frequent pauses. This will help captivate your audience, because you'll appear more thoughtful and in control of what you're saying.
A great way to gauge your speed is to film yourself. You should also practice speaking in front of colleagues and/or family who will provide you with honest feedback. Knowing exactly where you need improvement will make practicing more effective.
2. Dummy it down.
If your speech is too knowledge-driven, it'll get boring quick. Think about who your audience is, what event you're speaking at, and the topic being addressed.
Don't assume that your audience has the same level of knowledge as you, so ditch the industry jargon. Instead, use relatable language that is inclusive to everyone. The last thing you want to do is alienate your audience with big words they don't understand or oversimplify concepts they already know.
Do your research and look online at the conversations happening around your topic, the community you're speaking to, and the problems being addressed. Determine the problems faced by your audience and develop resolutions within your presentation that provide real answers to their questions.
More importantly, give them what they want and get to it quickly. There's nothing worse than rambling on about subjects your audience is not interested in. Great speakers (and leaders) know how to get to the point and create tangible takeaways.
3. Develop a stage persona.
Take your cue from Beyoncé and create your own Sasha Fierce persona when you hit that stage (minus the scanty attire and backup singers). We all know the saying, "Fake it till you make it." If you're really having a hard time shaking those nerves off, try creating a character for yourself.
While it's important to be authentic, sometimes stepping outside of yourself can help deter those jitters and put you at ease. That's why developing a stage character can help fight off insecurities when presenting. Work to find your own unique style and voice that pulls out the best (and most fearless) features of your personality.