While I was in Florida, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and took on a little public speaking assignment. Believe it or not there is no photographic evidence of me standing behind the podium, but—scout’s honor—I did get up there and speak to 150+ people.
It is probably better that there was no one there snapping pictures, as the flash may have made me forget all that I had planned to say. Now that my nerves have settled, I can truly say it was a wonderful event. I haven’t had any public speaking events in quite some time and it was great to stretch my muscles. In case you’re going to be speaking to a group anytime soon, here are my top five tips:
Use bulleted notes. For me, having a list of the highlights I want to cover works far better than drafting up my full speech. With a full speech, it is easy to lose your place, then you’re palms start sweating and you’re left stumbling over your own words. Or, even worse, you end up reading the full speech word for word without looking up from your script. I tend to stick to bullet points that will jog my memory. If there are specific numbers I need to remember, I make notes beneath the bullets so I can find them quickly.
Know your subject matter. Yes, it is obvious, but it is true. If you’re unsure of what you’re speaking about, you won’t be confident or comfortable up on stage and it will show. At this event I was speaking on government regulations that are creating opportunities in shop repair and other areas for highway-based businesses. I’ve researched and written about the topic enough to know that I had good information to share. I think that is key.
Practice in front of the mirror. You’ll feel ridiculous, but it helps. Believe me. The night before the presentation, I used my bulleted list and gave my full speech in front of the mirror a few times. I stumbled and stammered, but better to do it there than in front of the group.
Find a friendly face in the audience, or better yet, find the people who are taking notes. It will help put you at ease. I knew several of the people in the audience, so I turned to them when I started feeling nervous. I especially loved the note takers and those who nodded in agreement at the event. Thank you to all those kind souls.
Relax. Smile. Take a deep breath. Remember that people are people and even if you mess us, your audience will probably be forgiving. If worse comes to worst, crack a joke, laugh at yourself and invite your audience to laugh with you. Luckily, this didn’t happen to me.