Public Speaking! The mere words back-to-back send shivers the down spine of most people. On the list of a human being’s biggest fears public speaking is nearly always in first or second place and the fear of death is no higher than sixth. So when people say they would rather die than speak in front of a group they aren’t kidding, at least statistically speaking.
I’m in front of groups often but I’ve never made a speech. I do talks. One of the keys to successfully speaking in front of large groups of people is to realize that you’re not talking at them, you’re talking with them. It’s a bit of a one-sided conversation but still, it’s just a conversation. Making it more than that only makes it harder on you, the presenter.
Your fear of speaking in front of a group will subside in direct proportion to the amount of preparation you put into your talk. That said, you should also know that’s is possible to over prepare. I’m often asked how long it takes me to prepare for an hour or two talk. The truth is I spend very little time preparing for an individual presentation but on the other hand, I’ve spent decades preparing to speak on the subject.
While preparing to speak in front of a group here is one absolute no-no. Never, and I mean never, memorize your presentation. If you absolutely must read it then read it but never attempt to memorize it. So many things can go wrong with a memorized presentation that I couldn’t begin to list them all here.
Here’s a public speaking truth for you: if you know what you’re talking about you have no reason to be nervous, if you don’t know what you’re talking about you have no reason to be speaking. You cannot be effective in front of a group talking about something you know very little about. If you don’t know your subject inside and out no amount of preparation will hide that fact from your audience.
The best way to be effective in front of a group is to just be real, be yourself. Don’t think you need to be perfect to be effective. It’s okay to stumble here or there, to misuse a word and have to correct yourself. It’s okay to be less than perfect because it gives you one more thing in common with your audience. Nobody is perfect.
Never use three words when you can say it effectively in two. A great speaker doesn’t count their words, they weigh them. Big, seldom heard words are not the secret to success in speaking, they are the reason for lost audiences. Just talk the way you would to a friend, big words don’t make you an effective speaker, connecting and truly communicating with your audience does that. If you have to look up a word to know what it means, don’t use it in a talk because your audience might not have a dictionary handy.
Most importantly have fun. I try to never lose sight of what an honor it is to be trusted to speak in front of a group. If someone else has that amount of trust in you then you can surely have it in yourself. No audience goes to hear a speaker hoping that the speaker will fail, your audience wants you to succeed almost as much as you do. They are on your side. Have fun with your presentation, if you’re having a good time presenting your information it’s much more likely that your audience will enjoy hearing it.
Lastly, remember people seldom actually die from speaking in front of groups. Oh wait, I guess it’s that “seldom” part that’s the problem.😏