When you research the top two things people in this world fear most, it is death and public speaking.
I just happen to find myself in the unusual position of being a public speaker who talks about death and grief. (Talk about facing your fears head on…)
But I also talk to audiences about hope, healing and thriving in life.
As an inspirational speaker, podcast host, former TV news anchor and talk radio host, one of the hardest things for people to believe after hearing me speak is that I am by nature an introvert.
“How can you talk in front of thousands of people if you are an introvert?”
“How can you get in front of a camera or behind a microphone if you are an introvert?”
These are questions I am asked all the time.
Most introverted people can’t even begin to imagine doing what I do. Just the mere thought of it makes their stomach tighten into knots, their head spin and their knees wobbly.
But at some point in life you may be asked to step up to the plate and speak to a group of people.
You may be asked to make a presentation at work, or talk about your fundraiser at the next PTA meeting. You might even be asked to do a testimony in your church or give the best man speech at your best friend’s wedding.
And while your mind is telling you “no, don’t do it”. I’m encouraging you to say “yes”.
Sometimes these are opportunities of a lifetime and they are great opportunities for personal and perhaps professional growth.
So seeing as I tackle the two hardest subjects nearly every human fears, I thought I might pass along some tips on how to speak to a group of people in person or virtually even if it scares the life out of you.
So here are my 10 public speaking tips for introverts:
Nervousness and Excitement Feel the Same.
That’s right. Those butterflies in your stomach, your heart racing, and your knees shaking, those things all happen not just when you feel nervous, you can also feel them when you’re excited.
The difference is, one feels horrible and dreadful while the other feels great and passionate.
It’s all about a mindset shift. So the next time you have to get up and speak, tell yourself you are excited about the opportunity to share instead of focusing on being nervous about making a mistake.
Know Your Stuff
Sometimes things happen at an event that are beyond your control and that can throw you off your game. So know your stuff. That way if your time is shortened, you can hone in on the most important parts. Or if the powerpoint goes down in the middle of your presentation, you can move along with ease and grace. The more you know your subject matter inside and out, the more confident you will feel making your presentation
Practice your talk.
Practice the timing.
Practice your delivery.
Practice your pauses.
Practice imaginary questions and answers.
Practice until you feel confident that you could give this talk in your sleep.
So many times, people feel like they might just get up on the stage and just “wing it” or “speak from the heart”. This might be ok for an experienced speaker. But making a presentation in this manner could have you droning on too long, or cutting your message too short causing you to leave out some important information.
Whether you are speaking at a live or virtual event, make sure you arrive early. This allows you to meet with event organizers to go over any last minute changes or requests. It also gives you time to make sure your technology (if you are using any) is in working order.
On more than a few occasions, I have had to make changes at the last minute due to technology not working properly.
Things like this happening at the last minute can make you feel flustered and can affect your performance. So make sure you have enough time just in case.
Remember, It’s Not About You
Sometimes you can get so focused on yourself that you forget that it’s really about the message you are going to deliver, and the audience for whom you are delivering it.
You might worry about remembering everything perfectly or worry about messing up. You could worry if you are dressed ok, if your hair or make-up is applied correctly. You might worry about staging and lighting or if you misspelled anything in the powerpoint.
Stop worrying about all the things that in the end, really don’t matter at all.
When you focus on the opportunity to share this message and the people for who will be hearing it, versus an inward focus on the messenger, you can begin to get excited and feel the passion for the subject of the talk you are about to deliver.
Before you approach the stage or take the microphone, take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Do it again and once again. This truly helps to calm your nerves and signals your brain that it is time to engage.
A deep breath is always a good thing.
Find a Friendly Face
One of the oldest pieces of advice people have been given before they speak is to imagine the audience members sitting in their underwear.
I can tell you, this piece of advice has never really served me well. People sitting in their underwear can be just as intimidating as those wearing clothes.
Something that does serve me well is to look for a friendly face.
There are some people you’ll discover with whom your message resonates.
These are your people!
You will see them nodding their head or speaking in agreement with you.
Making eye contact with these people can make you feel at ease as you speak.
There are also people who are very skilled at listening and know that nodding in agreement is actually providing feedback to the speaker that their message is landing.
You should speak to the entire audience making eye contact as much as you can.
But always go back to those friendly faces as they can provide comfort as you deliver your presentation.
Have Notes on Hand
There’s no shame in having notes on hand. If you have important information to share, you do want to make sure you don’t miss any important points. Having note cards with bullet points can help you keep on track, prevent you from missing important information, and can help ease the anxiety you might feel as you speak. Consider your notes as a comfort and confidence booster. You might not ever need them, but just knowing they are there helps keep you calm and feel more confident as you deliver your presentation.
Just as you are looking for friendly faces in the audience, it’s nice if the audience connects with a friendly face on stage. So make sure you smile.
Seriously, remember to smile.
Sometimes we are so passionate about our subject matter that we can present with great intensity.
I talk about grief, and ways to help and support people through life’s most difficult tragedies and so I constantly have to remind myself to smile.
Serious or intense messages are better received if the audience perceives you as a caring, compassionate person.
Nothing portrays that more than a smile.
Regardless of your topic, make sure you connect with the audience by smiling occasionally.
When Oprah Winfrey was a television news anchor she said she never felt comfortable in that job.
The reason: she wasn’t able to be herself.
As Oprah tells it, every time she delivered the news she channeled Barbara Walters.
To her, Barbara Walters was the gold standard of female news anchors.
It wasn’t until she got her own talk show that she was finally able to be herself. And the rest is history.
The only person who should be Barbabara Walters is Barbara Walters and the only person who should be Oprah Winfrey is Oprah Winfrey.
You may not take to the stage like Tony Robbins or even Mel Robbins. But guess what? You’re not them.
So just be you.
You are enough.
You are amazing.
And you have an incredible story to tell.
The more people connect to you. The better your message will be received. And the more you follow these tips, the more comfortable you will feel speaking to crowds of tens, hundreds, or even thousands.
Make a Checklist
If you are speaking in person at an event, make a checklist of what you need to bring with you to do your presentation. Having this checklist keeps you feeling the fear of wondering if you have everything you need when you are already at your location and it’s too late to get what you need.
Have Water and Tissues on Hand
There are so many things that can happen when you are speaking that can trigger a coughing or sneezing fit. That’s why it is important to have a glass or bottle of water and tissue on hand. I have had experiences where a dry room, nerves, or even swallowing spit the wrong way, have triggered me to cough and sneeze. And while it is not a pleasant thing to happen, you can get through it much easier and recover more quickly if you have on hand some water to sip and some tissues.
To help you feel even more confident as you speak to audiences, I have prepared a special detailed checklist for you to use that also includes tips for before, during and after any presentation.
These are the lists I use that help me to feel my best as I present.
Having this list to follow allows me to feel confident as I am speaking and helps to strengthen the professional relationships that procure offers to return and speak again.