Yesterday I gave the keynote address at the Rae Burick Women in Sports Award celebration. No one was more surprised than me to see my name on the program as the keynote! As a shy, introvert, public speaking isn’t something I’ve historically enjoyed.
But since starting my business, I’ve become more and more comfortable behind a microphone, having spoken at coaches conventions and a slew of Kiwanis, Rotary and Optimist meetings. Confidence definitely comes with practice and I’ve learned helpful tips from many others, particularly Michael Hyatt.
Preparation. I can’t stress this one enough! Everyone works differently, but for me the process includes prayer, writing the speech, editing, practicing out loud and visualization.
- Prayer: God knows the audience better than I do and he knows what they need to hear. I see myself simply as a messenger of his message (whether the topic is spiritual in nature or not). This step takes the pressure off me and gives me confidence that the message will be relevant and meaningful to the hearers.
- Writing/Editing: This comes more naturally to me than speaking, so I write the speech out word for word. Then I go through it again and again, fine tuning the words and phrases so they come across more powerfully.
- Practicing: SO important. I’ve heard that 7 times is the magic number. Hearing the speech aloud helps me weed out phrases or words that don’t sound right and work on emphasizing certain sentences. It also gives me enough familiarity with the words that I only need to look at my notes to prompt me as to what comes next.
- Visualization: Not just for athletes, visualizing the venue and being up on stage helps my confidence. After seeing myself behind a podium or walking back and forth on stage many times in my mind, actually doing it isn’t as big a deal.
Brevity. I write the speech out in order to use as few words as possible to communicate my thoughts. Attention spans are so short these days (for young people and adults alike) that the fewer words you use, the more likely people are to not only pay attention, but actually walk away remembering what you said. Brevity not only applies to your words, but to your slides (if you use powerpoint or keynote).
If you’ve ever watched a TED talk, you’ve noticed that most presenters use slides with few words and mostly pictures. Some recommend no more than 6 words per slide! The more cluttered a slide the less likely it is to be grasped. I use a photo that describes what I’m talking about or a quote that I refer to. A surefire way to lose your audience is to read them 10 bullet points off a slide!
Authenticity. My hesitancy as a public speaker comes from the false belief that I don’t have anything interesting to say. But I’m learning that everyone has a story—even me! When a speaker shares life experiences, particularly mistakes or shortcomings, the audience relates and connects.
While we may fear looking bad, a little vulnerability actually endears us to our hearers. Yesterday, my first story was about how I got fired from my very first real job out of college. Suddenly, I wasn’t some “expert” on stage, I was a normal person who had failed at something just like everyone else in the room.
My friends laugh at me now because I’ve never sought the spotlight or wanted to be up in front of people. Maybe you can relate. These simple tips made all the difference for me!