How to become more confident at public speaking? This was the topic of our Powerful Business Talks interview with Kelly Sparks. Here are the key takeaways from the interview. PS! Find the full recording at the end of the post.
Public speaking is one of the most common fears and it affects men and women both. That's completely normal, because there's a lot of energy involved in it. But the truth is, anybody can become a great public speaker – even if you’re an introvert or extremely terrified of the spotlight.
Here are 7 steps that help you get started on your journey:
It's actually normal to feel nervousness before speaking. Some people feel it as nervousness or fear. Some people feel it as excitement. And the truth is, it's your body responding to that energy. If you're going to be speaking in front of a group, you're going to have a lot of energy coming at you, and you actually want your body to be ramping up. Your body is doing all these things, not to block you, but actually to serve you so that you have the power to have what you say really land and really connect with people. So, you need to make this shift of realizing that these nervousness feelings are not a bad thing, that energy that you feel, it's really the feeling of your power to impact people!
Our bodies are made to move! One thing to do before you go on a stage is to turn on some music, dance and just move your body. Often, we get our best ideas when we're doing something physical or exercising, that's because moving helps us release energy.
Think, what does your audience need to hear? What is the message that would help them the most? Knowing this helps with self-trust and letting go of the nervousness, because if you're really focused on what needs to be said, it will come out naturally.
When you go blank or feel that 10 things are coming at you at once, just take a breath. Anywhere that you feel tension in your body, you can actually breathe through it. And as you take this deep breath, and come back to your presentation, it will almost always end up looking like confidence to your audience, because you take a moment to pause. And that takes confidence. It helps you and it helps them because it lets your audience also connect with you and resonate with you, as they feel your confidence and sense that you're not rushed. And in that moment, something always comes through. Or if you’re really stuck, you can just be honest and say that you lost your train of thought or you need a second. It’s not about being perfect or being a robot – convey your authenticity.
One of the biggest misconceptions about public speaking is that you have to be a certain way. But the most powerful public speakers are the ones who can really connect to their own hearts. People whose presentations have touched us the most, are the ones who aren't trying to be a certain way. They are authentically themselves, undefended, unguarded, and speaking the truth about whatever they're speaking about without trying to be in performance mode. So, the biggest misconception is that public speaking has to be some kind of a performance rather than a true connection and intimacy with your audience.
When you prepare your speech, start with the purpose in mind, and then work backwards. Remember that storytelling is one of the most effective things you can do. As an expert of your area, you may feel tempted to share every piece of knowledge that you know, but often you can teach so much more with a story. So, always throw in at least one story. People think with pictures in their mind and it’s easier to follow along a story. Also, a story enables your audience to really get to know you. If you’re talking about a transformation or a process that you went through, you can share your journey of getting from A to B, for example.
Know what your end-game is, have your intro nailed, and have bullet points that you can't forget. This will allow you some freedom within that structure to move around as you don't want to memorize your speech word for word because then when we do get off track or we forget our place, then it is really hard to come back from it.
Kelly Sparks is a Life and Relationship Coach and a Licensed WomanSpeak Public Speaking Circle Leader.
She believes women’s voices are the key to positive change in the world and has dedicated her career to hearing and magnifying women’s voices.