#2 Map Out Your Speaking Points
Stories are relatable and give you a way to connect with your audience, even if you’re shy.
If you’ve been asked to lead the presentation or give a talk, you’ve earned the right to be there, even if you don’t feel ready.
Practice out loud. More than once.
At an event last week someone asked me whether I thought anyone could be trained to speak in public.
My first answer was an emphatic yes.
My second answer, was yes, provided they’re willing to practice.
As a kid, I spent the summers with my dad.
At Camp Dad, I learned how to cook and play ball.
From age 10-18, our after dinner ritual consisted of daily softball and tennis practice, and occasional, reluctant basketball practice.
I learned a lot from all those evenings taking batting practice and hitting tennis balls, and not just how to switch hit or play tennis with 2 forehands (yes, two).
What at first felt awkward and frustrating - lots of strikes and getting hit with tennis balls - eventually became more fun.
As I became more proficient, there were fewer misses and more satisfying moments when you hear the beautiful sound of your bat or racquet connecting with the ball.
Public speaking is just like learning to play a sport.
It can be scary and nervewracking at the start. But anyone can learn and its exhilarating when you connect with your audience. That’s the good news.
The bad news is YOU. HAVE. TO. PRACTICE.
Practice builds muscle memory. The more times you do it, the less terrifying it feels.
And the less terrified you feel, the more fun it will be.
Okay, that sounds good in theory but how do you get started and move past the deer in headlights feeling?
Watching endless TED talks, reading books on presentations, and silently reading your notes to yourself are not going to cut it.
It’s like trying to learn how to play baseball by watching it on TV. Or knitting your first sweater by watching YouTube tutorials without buying any yarn or knitting needles.
At some point, you have to leave the house. You have to practice.
So the next time you have a presentation, block off 10 minutes a day for 3 days leading up to your presentation and practice OUT LOUD.
Here's how to spend your time:
Day 1 - Practice your presentation in the mirror. This might feel a little silly at first, but you want to get comfortable seeing and hearing yourself speak. Watching yourself in the mirror helps you get used to looking up and makes it easier to maintain eye contact when you’re in front of an audience.
Day 2 - Record yourself and listen to it. You can do this on video or voice memo but make sure to listen back to the recording and pay attention to your speed, volume, intonation (and posture if you're watching video).
Day 3 - Practice your presentation for a dog. Dogs make very understanding audiences and they force you to be creative to keep them engaged. If your furry friend is drifting off, try changing positions, moving locations, or switching up your volume or pitch. (Hint: These same techniques also work for humans)
Scheduling a few short practice sessions will save you the anxiety of cramming and help you make time for the #1 thing that will improve your confidence and increase your impact.
Do you have a favorite practice technique? Let me know.
Want more practice ideas? Read Practice Your Talk on the Subway
Are you struggling to find your topic, or narrow down a broad topic with a specific point of view?
You might be overwhelmed with too many ideas OR struggling because you have no ideas at all.
If you’re in the second camp and writer’s block is holding you back, you need look no further than your personal experience to generate ideas.
You have a wealth of stories and life experience to draw on, but where do you start?
Below are 3 of my favorite brainstorming techniques get your creative juices flowing.
PROMPT 1: Write down 3 things you often rant about.
For me, this is bottled water, takeout, and automatic sinks that don’t turn on when they’re supposed to.
PROMPT 2: Write down 3 things you’re passionate about that you’d like to share with your audience.
You’ll often find me talking about are cooking, gardening, and how to make communication more fun
PROMPT 3: Write down 3 things you’d like to learn more about.
If your mind is overflowing with ideas, write down all the possible subjects you’ve thought about giving a talk on. Get them out of your head and onto paper so you can free up head space for the next steps.
You should now have a list of half a dozen or more ideas and can move on to the next step.
Step 2 is to narrow down your ideas, and for some, this is the hardest part.
Circle one or two ideas that jump out at you.
Pick one and write 100 words about it. (Writing 100 words is a good litmus test on whether this is a good topic to pursue.)
Now that you have a topic, Step 3 is to define your objective.
Grab the 4 Steps to a Winning Work Presentation for an easy template.
I saw Grace Bonney speak at Creative Mornings last week. Grace is founder of the successful blog Design Sponge. She talked about the importance of in-person connection. Her message:
"Real people matter, real life experiences matter, and what happens on the internet matters a whole lot less."
If you have the chance to speak in front of other people, focus on connection and the fact that your audience wants to hear from you. You may not relish being in the spotlight, you might be nervous, but if you have the opportunity to share your work in real life, seize it!
Focus on the fact that you’re talking to other people. And remember that your audience wants to hear from you.
Don’t look like a robot and use these 3 strategies to build connection:
1. Look Them in the Eye
I know it can feel scary standing at the front of the room with all eyes on you. If you’re nervous or shy, eye contact might be the last thing you want to focus on. But consider this:
Your audience wants to know you’re talking to them.
So look them straight in the eye.
People often ask how to make contact with a big room of people. Here's a Tip: Look at one person at a time and tell them a whole thought. Then, move on to another person and tell them your next thought. With practice it will get easier.
If you’re nervous and don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway.
Smiling helps you relax.
It triggers different hormones in the body and when you smile, people in the audience are more likely to smile back at you. It will make the experience more fun, and if you're having fun so will your audience.
3. Be curious
Find out who your audience is and make sure your topic interests them. For instance, you might research them in advance and find out their profession, age range, and educational background. Once you know more about the audience, tailor your content to suit them.
Want more strategies to build your speaking confidence and an opportunity to practice live with other creatives?
Don’t miss the next Speak with Impact Workshop on March 5th! Details and tickets here.