A year ago I wouldn’t have considered public speaking one of my fortes. But for my job, I pretty much do it all the time now. When I travel, for the most part, I show up to speak. One of my colleagues taught me this trick, which has made such a huge impact on my comfort level up there that I shared it with a few of my friends in return and now I’d like to share it with you. Here’s what you do:
- Write out everything you want to say, bullet points or full sentences, whatever
- Then go back through and highlight the key words that signal each new point
- PRACTICE THE ENTIRE SPEECH 7x, starting from the beginning each time
- Write out a note card with just those highlighted words as mile markers (you want reference points, not a script)
- When you get up there, put your paper down somewhere in front of you, don’t hold it while you talk, that way you and the audience can focus on what you’re saying and you’ll spend more time looking at them
Seven times through is key - a full dress rehearsal - and here’s what I’ve noticed it does for you:
- You get really good at the opening. The first 2 minutes are probably the most important part and if you start off confident, you’ve won their attention and half the battle. First impressions, no surprise, they’re important.
- You work out the kinks. When you go through it that many times you find out which transitions are awkward, or where it feels like it’s dragging in the privacy of your hotel room, not in front of the crowd, and you can easily course correct.
- You feel prepared. Knowing what you’re going to say and what’s coming next is the best way to kill nerves. For me, this approach vs. winging it makes a huge difference.
Sure, natural charisma has something to do with it, but I honestly think the biggest difference between really interesting speakers and the average person reading off of a piece of paper is this kind of preparation. Even if it’s not your forte - it wasn’t mine - don’t underestimate how good you can be if you just invest the time.
Ok, that’s my PSA for today. Go forth and knock ‘em dead!