I wonder if Adolf Hitler used to get nervous before presenting at show and tell…or if Martin Luther King’s hands used to shake before a 5 minute presentation to his high school class.
Polls say people would rather be dead than speak in public. Seinfeld joked that a guy giving a eulogy would rather be in the coffin. I’m still young and I’ve already given hundreds of speeches and whether I like it or not, I’ll need to do more, and so will you. So why not get better at it?
It didn’t matter who I am was speaking in front of, my hands would shake and my voice would tremble. It was a college speech that was the final nail in the coffin. I was almost finished the introduction of my speech when I froze. I was too concerned about my own freezing that I couldn’t even remember what I was speaking about. I apologised and after what seemed like an hour I was able to regain my composure. I left that day with a new mission to master giving a speech.
Here is how you can master public speaking.
WATCH COMEDIANS. I watch great standup comedy before every talk. It puts me in a looser mood and makes me laugh, which relaxes me. And when possible, I will even directly steal a joke from whatever comedian I’m watching. If they’ve tested out the joke, then it’s probably a good one and will work for me as well.
I even practice imitating their timing. The way they pause, the way they change voices and move around the stage, everything. Comedians are the best public speakers and are up against the most brutal audiences so studying comedians is a must!
NO POWERPOINT. I used to think I always needed a PowerPoint. Because as useful as my words are: a “picture is worth a thousand words”. This is total BS. If a picture is worth 1000 words then you are worth 100,000 pictures.
I compare Daniel Tosh stand-up with his TV show “Tosh.0″. In his stand-up it’s just him, making jokes, NO PowerPoint. In “Tosh.0″, the format is that he watches YouTube videos and makes fun of them. His stand-up is better than the show it self.. Even though the show is great, it isn’t as fun as just watching him do stand-up. So move on and cut the cord between you and PowerPoint, because it will only distract them from the main attraction: You
PAUSE. I had this unnatural fear that if I paused too much during a talk people would get bored. But inserting pauses allows people to think about what you are saying. It allows you to breathe, it allows you to be funnier, it avoids the impression that you are rushing through the material. Take a drink of water. Walk from one side of the stage to the other. Whatever you need to do.
Q AND A. I enjoy Q and A as much as the talk itself. So I arrange beforehand to do the maximum amount of Q&A.
TELL STORIES. Always Be Storytelling. NEVER give advice in a talk. Nobody is smart enough to give advice. Just talk about your own experiences and what you did to help yourself. Mix in interesting facts. Straight out advice will never help anyone. Buddha himself realized this about public speaking. He said, “Don’t believe me on anything. Try this out for yourself.” The secret to persuade people and attract their undivided full attention is to inspire them!
KEEP IT SHORT. There’s a reas that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” was 17 minutes long and that Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech was less than 15 minutes in length. Only include things that are essential to your speech, otherwise you risk losing the audience. If you need to fill 45 minutes, allow for a discussion or Q&A so you aren’t the only one talking.
PRACTICE. Not practicing your talks and presentations on your feet is one of the single biggest mistakes you can make. Experienced speakers will often do a dry run of their material with a trusted audience of friends, family, or colleagues. They will simulate the environment of their presentation using a projector and slide remote. They’ll choreograph their movements and gestures which will dramatically increase your ability to remember your material.