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Jan 30, 201411:28 AMOpen for Business

with Jody Glynn Patrick

How to overcome a naked fear of public speaking

(page 1 of 2)

You’ve agreed to do a presentation, and suddenly you understand why an estimated 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety or nervousness when public speaking. It somehow feels like parading around naked, and you’re worried that someone in the audience will notice that you, in fact, are wearing no clothes.

A successful speech transforms the listener. It takes the audience on a journey and imbues them with passion or reverence for the topic and/or speaker. But how do ordinary people catapult themselves to “expert” or “guru” roles just by opening their mouths? Here’s their “speech formula,” the key to cloaking your fears.

Human beings are biologically wired to listen to stories. An engaging narrative with a beginning, middle, and end is your best tool for getting an audience’s rapt attention. The secret to framing a speech is starting with the end result in mind. How much does the audience already know about your subject, or want to learn? What is the desired takeaway? What do you want each person to think, feel, or do after listening to you? Can you embed an “aha!” message that changes a listener’s perception, behavior, or knowledge base?

Simply put, you want your audience to “get it.” But if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want them to “get,” or if it is not relevant to their lives or dreams, fears, or schemes, then you can’t craft a persuasive or captivating speech. Define your relevance — that’s the speech!

Open with a question or story. Some folks start with definitions or statistics (yawn). Warning: A joke better be funny to everybody. Better yet, start with a quick story the audience will relate to, or a motivational question. Example: “What if I told you something this morning that would change the way you manage your finances this afternoon? If you could eliminate most of your credit card debt, what could that mean for your quality of life?”

Don’t “write a speech.” Break down a speech into elements: facts/stories/lessons learned, etc. For a timed speech, determine how many minutes to devote to each speech element. Prepare an outline and then, if you want, create a few graphic slides to use as a topic transition trigger to 1) remind you what comes next and 2) keep your timing intact. Time each slide accordingly. As PowerPoint automatically moves to the next cue slide, transition to that topic. Practice 10 or so times and you’ll be set to give up to an hour-long speech without any notes at all. And you might be versed enough to even dump the PowerPoint — a step that can actually increase audience engagement! Don’t practice reading; you don’t need a script. Look at the cue slide and practice telling or explaining. Use cue slides to illustrate, not to inform. You do the work; let the slides serve as relevant eye candy — just enough to entice, not enough to distract from you and the persuasive message bites you’ve connected.

Don’t sneak your notes onto slides. It is just as bad to read from a slide as from a piece of paper. And no, the use of bullet points doesn’t negate the “no notes” rule. A 30-point font for room-wide visibility is necessary if you MUST use words (for example, for a verbatim quote). Even then, try to limit words to no more than seven per slide.

(Continued)

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