It seems that most people are perfectly capable of speaking when sitting down. Get them to stand up and talk, even for just a minute, and their legs turn to jelly! I can remember when I first started to speak in public my knees knocked so loudly no one could hear what I had to say.
I thought I would share my top three techniques that I have picked up along the way that have helped me to feel confident when speaking in public. Back in those knee knocking days I never believed that people would pay me to come and speak at their conference! Try them and I guarantee that speaking in front of an audience will be a much less daunting prospect.
The way we feel is influenced heavily by our posture and breathing. I always say that breathing is a good idea! Its where we breathe from that makes the difference. Slow, deep, breaths from the stomach area is much better than short, shallow breaths from the chest. Your posture will make a big difference too. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and head up and your feet planted firmly on the ground. I like to move around a bit so standing behind a lectern does nothing for my confidence. Movement combined with posture and breathing makes a big difference.
The magic wardrobe
This is a great technique I learned at Andy Clark’s Speakers Academy. You imagine you have a magic wardrobe and before going out to speak you pick out your invisible speakers jacket. Mine is gold and sparkly. When I put it on I transform from someone who would rather sit in the audience and hear other people speak to the showman. Its show time and I am out to entertain. Sometimes I forget to take it off!!
When I was new to public speaking I thought that preparation was obviously important but the comment that it would calm my nerves was a platitude. I prepared and I still felt nervous! The problem was that no one told me HOW to prepare other than just learn my lines. I rarely use notes now and yet I never learn my lines. I do not have any! What I do is learn my material very well and prepare the structure of what I am going to say and consider the timing. I will rehearse stories and important parts of the speech but I never learn to speech parrot fashion as was suggested. I would be worrying to much about remembering the sequence to pay attention to the audience!
A key part of preparation is practice. In addition to practicing in the car on journeys I practice in my mind. In the mornings, when I first wake up, I practice in my imagination! Evidence suggests that the mind cannot tell the difference between something we have vividly imagined and something we have done for real. I trick my mind into thinking it has already done the speech many times before I make the speech for the first time!
Laying in my bed, I imagine that I am actually giving the speech in front of the audience. I do not do the whole speech but imagine doing key elements of it and it all flowing. Sometimes I get insights that something is missing or certain things need to change. Most of the time I am focused on interacting well with the audience, making eye contact, feeling confident, and the audience laughing at the right places.