According to a 2016 study from Statistic Brain, 74 percent of people have a fear of giving speeches. That means that three out of four people dread being put on stage to present something, no matter how important it is.
The problem with this fear is that public speaking can have a huge impact on your career and future in business.
So how can you become part of that 26 percent who aren’t afraid to give a speech? It may not be a matter of conquering your fear as much as learning the skills to do a good job despite your fear.
Many CEOs have to give long and short speeches on a regular basis. It’s safe to say that they probably don’t all enjoy giving speeches, but many of them have learned how to do it well anyway.
Let’s look at a few of the secrets that CEOs use to make their speeches and presentations better:
1. It’s not all about speaking.
Body language and general appearance can be just as important as the words you’re saying. When you’re addressing an audience of any size, you need to play the part of the confident and capable person. Many people will tune you out or put less weight on your words if you’re poorly dressed, unhygienic, or sloppy.
If you project awkward body language, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. Your body language and how you hold yourself will actually affect the quality of your speech. If you can project confidence, you will be able to speak with more authority. People will notice the difference, even if they can’t see you.
2. Know your message.
Giving a speech about a topic you’re not familiar with is a recipe for failure. You must know what you’re talking about. It’s better to understand your speech topic so thoroughly that you don’t even need to have a written aid with you. If you do keep note cards or something similar, make sure it’s only a simple outline or key points to keep you on track. Never read a speech from paper if you can avoid it.
Know your material. Don’t accept speaking engagements that will ask you to talk about something you don’t know anything about. Even if you think you know about it, review your knowledge to get it fresh on your mind before going up on stage. By knowing your topic thoroughly, you will help avoid the risk of forgetting important information while you’re speaking. You can also speak in the moment, instead of giving a canned speech.
3. Speak simply.
Unless it’s a technical speech that requires a lot of precise and complex language, you should speak in a manner that’s easy to understand. Don’t make things too complicated by trying to use words and phrases the average person may not immediately understand.
The best public speakers are those who can make sure everyone in the audience is on the same page. They do this by speaking in a way that’s simple, yet descriptive enough to communicate the important takeaways.
4. Focus on a big idea.
Some of the best speeches ever given have been short, simple speeches about big ideas. They are not exhaustive, nor do they cover all of the finer aspects of every idea. Public speaking isn’t the best way to communicate small, specific details anyway, so use your speech wisely to get buy-in for the bigger ideas first. Then, you can communicate fine details through another means or possibly a Q&A session after the main speech.
5. Have a narrow focus.
Don’t talk about a broad topic or spread your words out too far. You will lose people’s attention quickly if you deviate from your main topic. It’s better to speak for a short time on a very specific point than to give a long talk that covers too many different subjects. You won’t be able to give your topic justice if you try to cover too much material in the same speech.
6. Keep it short.
The average adult can keep their attention focused on something for 20 minutes, regardless of if they are interested or not. If you go too far beyond that, you will start losing the audience attention. Speeches should usually not exceed 20 minutes for a normal occasion. Some speeches should be much shorter, depending again on the topic you’re covering.
If you must give a longer speech, try to get some audience participation to help keep people’s attention. By keeping people engaged, you will lengthen their attention spans so you can get your whole point across without the majority losing track of what you’re saying halfway through the speech.
7. Practice how you speak.
It’s not enough to go over your speech in your head or recite it a few times quietly to yourself. You must practice your speech the way you want to present it, or else you’re wasting your time. While you’re practicing, focus on things like speaking slowly with purpose, projecting confidence in your body language, and maintaining eye contact around the room (even if no one is there for your practice).
By practicing these things before the actual speech, you will be preparing yourself to focus only on the speech itself once the time comes to present it. You will already have practiced how to present yourself, so there won’t be a need to focus on these things or worry about what you’re doing during the actual speech. Practice in the same way you want to perform.
For most people, public speaking is only a huge fear because they don’t know how to do it well. Once you learn the skills you need to succeed, you’ll project the confidence of a CEO in every speech.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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