Surveys have consistently shown that most people are afraid to speak in public. Yet, a well-delivered speech can be a life-changing event. It can influence the outcome of a debate, steer a business to a course of action, galvanize the support of team members, and give the speaker added respect.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and one of the most-watched TED presenters, offers his tips for flawless public speaking.
1. Pause before you speak.
Don't jump into your presentation as soon as you hit the podium. Sinek says that you should walk slowly to the stage, breathe in, gather your thoughts, take a beat—and then launch into your talk. Waiting a moment before you speak and centering yourself shows the audience your confidence and control of the room.
2. Don't sell. Give.
Some speakers give presentations that are really sales pitches in disguise for their own products or agenda. Audience members can often see right through these "takers" and tune them out. Instead, Sinek says that speakers should give their all to the audience, teach them something new, inspire them, and deliver genuine value.
Speakers who sweep their head across the audience from side to side come across as less engaging. Sinek recommends making eye contact with one audience member at a time, delivering a full thought or sentence while holding their gaze, and then moving on to another member and repeating the same action. Such focus builds energy in the room that the entire audience feels.
4. Talk slowly.
Rushing through your speech can signal your anxiety. To keep the attention of the audience, speak at a slower than normal pace and pause frequently. Speaking at a more deliberate pace helps to keep the audience focused on what you are saying.
5. Ignore negative audience members.
There will always be audience members who scowl or shake their head at what you're saying. Reaching out to them can be draining and a waste of time. Sinek recommends playing to audience members who are with you. Seeing the way that they react positively to you and your message will build your confidence and sense of purpose on stage.
6. Channel your stage fright.
Whenever you feel butterflies in your stomach or sweaty palms before you speak, play a mind game with your nerves. Tell yourself that these are signs of your excitement at speaking and sharing your message. Turn them into a positive force and use the energy to increase your confidence.
7. Give thanks.
Saying thank you, as Sinek does at the end of his presentations, is a graceful way to reward the audience one last time for their patience and attention.
Mastering these few simple techniques can turn your next public speaking experience into a powerful tool for you and your small business.
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