For some people, public speaking sparks terror; for others, talking to a crowd is downright enjoyable. We can all agree, though, that developing those communication abilities is key to connecting with success whether you’re a parent trying to raise funds for your PTA, a small business owner, or have your sights set on becoming a big-shot social media influencer.
Aside from imagining that everyone in the audience is in their underwear, how do you deal with those inevitable public speaking jitters?
For me personally, I spend some time before a big speech breathing deeply. I center myself and remember times when people have enjoyed my message or told me that my words touched a nerve in some way. Sending myself a few positive vibes before addressing a large crowd helps me focus—usually I calm down and start to enjoy myself after the first few sentences.
Beth Gibson, a 20 year veteran in the field of communications and Director of Community Outreach for GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys says that being ready for your audience will also calm those nerves.
“Preparation is your strongest competitive advantage,” she says. She advises anyone invited to speak to a group to ask lots of questions beforehand.
“Always consider your audience,” she said. As a speech writer and media liaison at the White House for several years, Gibson has developed a series of questions to help you know what you’re getting into before you step in front of the crowd.
1.Make sure you know the full name of the group you’re addressing, and ask the person who invites you to speak for a list of attendees.
“You’ll want to find out their age range, work backgrounds, knowledge level, political orientation, and any special concerns that they may have,” she explained.
2. How long should your speech be? Should you allow time for questions?
People like good speakers who don’t overstay their welcome.
3. Ask what your audience would like to hear.
What has worked well for them in the past? What hasn’t? This information will help your public speaking experience be more successful.
4. For more formal venues, ask for a meeting or program agenda.
“You’ll need to know detailed logistics about the room, setup, seating, microphones, lighting, and water availability. Use the conversation with the inviter to influence these things to your liking and comfort level,” Gibson said.
5. Provide the inviter with your own introduction and bio.
“This is crucial. If you give the people free rein with your introduction, they may not get your credentials correct. This could affect your credibility and the way the audience views your authority to speak on your particular topic,” she said. “Trying to restate or correct your introduction will throw you off in the beginning of your speech.”
6. Find out if the media will be in attendance.
Even if they won’t be, this is the age of camera phones and social media. Don’t say it if you don’t want to hear it over and over again.
“Assume everything you say will be made public,” Gibson said.
These six tips will allow you to push down your jitters and speak with confidence. Beth and I will address ways to write a killer speech in our next segment.