I have a confession — I hate being on stage except when I’m singing with a band. I always feel anxious and TERRIFIED every time I’m on stage or even speaking in small groups! I remember when I was in college that I was good at speech presentations but I lost my confidence 15 years ago when I embarrassed myself after committing too many errors as a host of a mall show.
However, it all changed in November 2019 when Writing Hacks Academy tapped my potential and invited me to become one of their public speakers. It was my first ever public speaking gig and I was completely nervous! I’m glad that I pulled it off well and I received compliments from the audiences, thus encouraging me to continue public speaking.
It takes a lot of guts and discipline to become a successful public speaker. Only a few take that road because of various reasons. I’d like to share with you my basic yet effective practices in public speaking.
Organize and Rehearse: Those are the first steps that you should do. After researching the topic of your speech, write your script or even an outline of your speech and rehearse a few days ahead, multiple times until you are familiar with it so that you won’t lose your thoughts. It will also help you to answer your audiences’ questions concisely.
Calm Your Nerves: Breathe first before hitting the stage. Improper breathing can either cause anxiety or even worse, to get choked right in the middle of the speech. I’m sure nobody wants it to happen! My psychiatrist recommended to inhale for 3 seconds, hold it for 5 seconds, and exhale for 7 seconds. It relieves anxiety. Just don’t make it too obvious though!
Audience Impact: There is a huge advantage in treating your audiences like your family and close friends. It builds a lot of confidence and rapport especially during the Q and A portion. Gone are the days when the speech is too formal except when you’re doing a political campaign. In fact, there are so many public speakers today injecting a dose of humor to keep their audiences awake and alert. Just don’t overdo it though!
Avoid Perfection: Don’t focus too much on the small details. Don’t be even too conscious even if you commit an error. It will make you even more nervous! If you do, all you have to do is to apologize for the mistake, make a correction, and continue talking. Or go back to step one.
The next thing you have to do is to follow these four steps until it becomes a habit. Once habits develop, the right amount of confidence comes until you become good in public speaking. The next time you get an offer from your boss or teacher to speak at a seminar, just accept it and treat it as an opportunity. As Sir Richard Branson said, “Whatever your goal is you will never succeed unless you let go of your fears and fly.” Who knows, you’ll be the next TED speaker or podcaster soon.