Maya Angelou, JFK, and President Obama didn’t become gifted orators overnight. It takes old-fashioned practice and perseverance to master the art of public speaking.
As a business owner, you’d be surprised how much your world will expand when you begin to connect with a live audience. Your confidence will attract new clients, new resources, mentors, and the media. So, if you’re ready to master this powerful business development tool, here are my top 10 tips for success on the stage:
1. Research — Prepare carefully by doing your research before you even attempt to write your speech. Who is your audience? What are your “take aways” — the most important things you want them to walk away having learned from you? The more you know about your audience as well as your subject, the more confident you’ll feel when you are in front of them.
2. Make clear notes — Write down your entire speech, then pick out the main areas you’ve covered. Jot them down as bullet-points, words or phrases on 3″ X 5″ cards to prompt you during your speech. Use different colors to separate your points, in case you lose your place or work them into your PowerPoint presentation.
3. Practice thoroughly — Practice giving your talk into a recorder and use a timer to watch your minute marks. Surprisingly, having a recorder running puts pressure on you to know your material. From here, you can graduate to practicing in front of others. Practice using tools such as your PowerPoint clicker or laser pointer.
4. Visit the venue beforehand — Make an advance visit to where you’ll be speaking, even if you can only do this an hour beforehand. Stand exactly where you will be giving your speech to get a feel for the space. Also, ensure you get a sound check beforehand if there is a sound engineer provided for you.
5. Dress to stand out from the audience — If the backdrop is dark on stage, make sure you wear light colors. If the backdrop is light on stage, wear a contrasting color or darker shade. Never wear black on top, although black pants with a light or colored top works well. If you wear a dress, pick one with a belt, so you can clip the wireless mic transmitter to it! (Otherwise, in a pinch, I have clipped my mic pack to my bra strap.)
6. Breathe deeply — Take deep breaths before you go on stage. A minute or so of calm, deep breaths will slow your heart rate, increase your oxygen levels, and ground you nicely to give a calm, confident performance.
7. Think positively — If you’ve rehearsed and prepared adequately, there is no reason not to believe in yourself. Visualize no other outcome but being a raging success. Think how much the audience will like you, and how good you will feel after you’ve done it!
8. Don’t rush — Speak slowly to ensure you don’t trip over your words, and don’t rush to finish points. Ideally, set timings in your speech notes, so you know if you are going too fast or too slowly as you go along. Timing checks in your notes will help you sail along at a comfortable, relaxed speed.
9. Show your passion! — Feed off the passion you have for your subject. This will engage your audience’s attention. Let your voice get louder for some points and softer for others; have some variance in your presentation as far as your sound dynamics.
10. Be yourself and have fun — Audiences may forget what you say, but they will remember what you make them feel. And no one will know that you “messed up” but you. So go for it!
© 2011 Ali International, LLC
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