Being able to speak confidently and clearly in front of crowds is undeniably a skill every business owner should have. It’s a good thing, then, that almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents to last week’s Best Practices Poll said they consider themselves good public speakers. Still, giving a presentation can be nerve-wracking. Our respondents offer their advice on how to do it best.
- “I picture myself talking to a couple of friends, even if I’m talking to a large group,” says Leslie. “No one ever gets nervous or stuck for words when chatting with friends! Also, I am not concerned with what they think of me personally, but I try and tell them something that will be of benefit to them, that they can remember easily. And I’m not afraid to make mistakes or have a laugh at my own expense.”
- Gary says: “There are many great books on how to structure a presentation, but not as many on how to overcome nerves. The technique that helped me most and consistently was to go into the hall beforehand and practice the speech; not so much to practice the delivery, but to act as if I were looking at the faces of the people who would be filling the seats later on. Specifically, as I practice my speech, I look at the seatbacks as if they were people, gazing from front to back and side to side. When the time comes to give the actual speech, nerves are all but eliminated because I am not intimidated by the presence of the people, having ‘seen’ them while practicing earlier.”
- “Remember that only you know when you’ve made a mistake, so never let them see you sweat,” says mstilwell. “Public speaking is as much about how well you believe in yourself as anything else. This belief becomes confidence, which translates into positive response from your audience.
“Most importantly: slow down. We all speak too quickly. A good speaker gets into a rhythm that is paced about where the human heart rate is.”
- “In my experience representing speakers, the best public speakers are those who combine information, inspiration and entertainment in every presentation,” says Theresa Beenken, vice president at the National Speakers Bureau. “These presentations offer the value of useful content, a feel-good/can-do factor, and an enjoyable experience for the audience. Some of the best speakers in the country—including Olympian Mark Tewksbury, commentator Rex Murphy and humanitarian Lt. General RomÃ©o Dallaire—all incorporate these three elements.”
- “I have tried all the tips and still find it difficult to give a talk without notes or a visual presentation to speak from,” says Ken. “I mostly deal with elderly men, so imagining the audience as if they are naked doesn’t work either—in fact, it’s sometimes more stressful! In reality, I don’t do too badly, and my tips are:
- Really know your topic
- Have good material to accompany your verbal presentation
- Treat your audience as equals (i.e., never talk down to them)
- Answer all questions as if it were the first time you’ve heard them
- Keep the audience involved by giving topical examples or asking questions of them
- Never speak as if it is a chore. Be animated even if the topic is somewhat somber.”
For his answer, Ken will receive a copy of Smart Investor’s Survival Guide by Charles B. Carlson.
Watch for another Best Practices Poll in the next PROFIT-Xtra.