After months of Zoom meetings and video conferences, it may feel strange to find yourself standing before a live audience.
You might even feel like a beginner again.
Don’t freak out. Use that nervous energy to animate your performance – whether it’s with a client, in the courtroom, or for a group. Tap into the rush of adrenaline. Above all, don’t hide behind the lectern.
“When all eyes are on us, we feel more exposed,” says this article on the Harvard Business Review website. “Our flight-or-fight instincts kick in, and we do what’s natural to protect our well-being. The number one cause is almost always uncertainty. We wonder: Will our message be heard?”
To hit a home run in your next live gig, brush up on the basics of effective public speaking. Some tips are below.
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Four Public Speaking Skills
- Focus outward, not inward. “Be a giver, not a taker,” writes Riaz Meghi, the author of the HBR article cited above. “There’s a big difference. Takers tend to have more anxiety. They want and need validation from their listeners. They wonder: Will the audience like me? Will they pay attention to me? Will they find my jokes funny? Givers, on the other hand, are all about service. They work beforehand to connect with stakeholders and use the information they receive to address the needs of their audience. The focus of their presentation becomes less about them and more about helping the other people in the room grow and meet their goals.”
- Build bridges before you speak. “If you want to turn your presentation into an act of service, you need to talk to the people in the room — well before your presentation begins,” writes Meghi. “Choose about three to five influential leaders that will be in your audience or virtual setting and make an effort to schedule some time with each. A short coffee or lunch break will suffice. You can say something like, “Could we connect for 15 minutes prior to the presentation next week? Would love to check in and learn what you feel the group needs most right now.”
- See, don’t scan. When you’re up there, don’t let your gaze wander unfocusedly around the room. Seek out those who were looking at you with engagement and interest. Make eye contact with these individuals. Speak to them. Meghi suggests finding your Fab Five: “These are five people you can consistently lock eyes with in the crowd, so that it feels like you are having several personal conversations. Take your time with this. Speak to one person and share a thought or idea, then move to the next one. Use your entire space. The people in the back and on the sides of the room will be appreciative of your attention as the ones in the middle will be getting most of your eye contact.
- Remember: practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. So hop back on that horse. Before you know it, you’ll be galloping again.
Source: Harvard Business Review
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