It is said that on the fear list, public speaking comes before the fear of death. It has even its own word: glossophobia, coming from the Greek glossa, meaning tongue, and phobos, meaning fear. The symptoms of glossophobia can vary and are numerous: dry mouth, trembling body, sweating, just to name a few. In her article How I Got Over My Fear of Public Speaking, Kelly offers a good set of advices, from her own experience, on how to overcome glossophobia. I although introduced 3 simple hacks to better speak in public and 5 deadly mistakes to avoid to be a good speaker.
Whatever your audience, whatever your topic, and whatever your public speaking skills, anxiety and fear always kicks in. There’s a story one of my mentors of public speaking that I particularly like: A young actress, after a play, goes to see the great Sarah Bernhardt and asks “madam, I never add stage frights, is this normal?” Sarah Bernard answers “Don’t worry, it comes with talent”. Just to say it’s completely normal to have stage fright, it’s actually a nice feedback loop that helps us remember the essential things to do to get good at what we are about to do.
Here are a set of behavioral tips and tricks to feel better when you are about to deliver a public speech:
- Shout! If you can find a secluded place when nobody hears you, go there and shout the loudest you can. It will help a lot empty the tension you have.
- Stand right! Pull your shoulders backwards, push your breast forward and stand right. Exaggerate the movement before setting the foot on stage, it will relieve the tension in your upper body.
- Put one foot slightly ahead of the other! A little bit like martial art practitioners. This will provide a better balance.
- Breathe slowly and deeply! Breathing is essential, breathing slowly will lower your cardiac speed and lower your anxiety
- Look at your audience, spotting friendly faces! There are always friendly and smiling faces in an audience, look at them like you were speaking to them one on one, but do not speak only to them, move your eyes around, and come back to those friendly faces.
- Accept mistakes and failures! You tongue will trip. You will forget a sentence or a paragraph. All this, and more, happens, even to the best. The only way to avoid this is to rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse. If you do not have the time, accept little mistakes
One thing that most people do not realize is that the best speakers, the Obamas, the Jobs, etc. are prepared to the max. They have a prompter, they have coaches, and they have rehearsed dozens of time. There’s no shortcut to being a great public speaker, but the above simple tricks will help you getting better and better.
All the best!
Day 616. I’ve been attending presentations yesterday from 8AM until 7PM, with more than 15 different speakers. All of them (but two, and I will tell you who later) did at least one of the below mistakes. By doing them, they diluted their message, minimized their impact and reduce the retention of the key points they presented. It’s sad because public speaking is not rocket science, anybody can become an accomplished speaker, and if you avoid those 5 deadly mistakes, you will have the impact that less than 5% of public speakers have. Let’s go:
- Speak to the screen behind you. I wrote a rant on this a couple of weeks. Screens do not hear you, your audience does. Never, never, never speak to the screen behind you. Either you have a monitor (or a prompter) in front of you that shows you what’s projected (this is your crutch) or you know your script. But please, speak to your audience.
- Read what’s on the slides that are projected. Any audience can read. If you read, you do not need to present, just show the slide and shut up. Better, send the slides to the participants, they can read them sitting on a couch or wherever they want. Slides with more than 5 lines of text and 8 words by line are bad slides. You may disagree with the numbers I am giving, I just put them here, I could have used 4, 7, or 6, 10, it’s just to say that less is more, actually it introduces the next mistake.
- Give facts, only facts. Slides or not slides, empty slides or full slides, facts are boring. If you need to provide facts, send me a document with the facts and the numbers, I can read it sitting on a couch, drinking coffee. Come on! If you want your audience to remember something, you need emotions, and you can provoke emotions only by telling stories. I always remember my area VP telling us during one of our mid-year reviews: “I can read, so don’t waste my time paraphrasing what’s on the slide (and those are not slides, but full pages written in font size 10 with tons of facts), tell me the story behind the facts” Even at that level of business, the story is more important than the facts.
- Speak in the dark. If I come to listen to you, I want to see you. You may have a wonderful setup, but if the scene is not correctly lit, you lose 50% of your impact. People cannot read your body language! A theater scene is not lit so you cannot see your audience (if you never set a foot on a theater scene, imagine the lights are so powerful, you cannot see the audience at all), they are lit so that your audience can see you. The side effect of this lighting is you cannot see the audience. A little bit lit the headlight of a car: you see what’s in front of your light, but if a car comes from the opposite direction and has its headlights turned on, you cannot see behind the lights.
- Go without rehearsing. If you read what’s on the slide because you are discovering the slide while projecting them, do not insult your audience by coming on stage. Go back to where you come from and come back when you will be prepared to tell me a story that will make me dream and wanting to act.
Public speaking is an art! Like all form of arts, it require training, rehearsing and “acting”. Acting means a lot of things, from the words you are using, to how to tell those words and to where to tell them. It’s not rocket science. Respect your audience! You may not have the time (or do not want to invest the time) to become a professional public speaker, but at least do not insult your audience by coming unprepared.
You want to know who were the 2 speakers who all respected the above points: a lawyer and an HR director. Lawyers are trained speakers and HR director’s job is to respect their people (at least good ones), no surprise they knew how to have a real impact.
Day 560. How do you become a respected and successful leader? As Lao Tzu wrote: When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ Hundreds of books have been written on leadership. Over the ages, leadership has changed and the necessary skills to be considered a good leader have changed too. However, all good leaders have one thing in common: they succeed through others. All good leader need others to deliver the vision. And to be able to lead others, they need one crucial skill and that is: speaking.
We all learn to speak by listening first, then by learning the rules, mostly grammar. However, what is barely taught is the how and the what (the content, not the rules). Words can lift you up, can tear you down, and can even kill. How you deliver those words can be the amplifier. Words and their delivery, a.k.a. speaking, is the most important skill of all because this is one you cannot delegate. You have to learn it, you have to rehearse, and you have to master it. The good news is it can be taught. Clubs like Toastmasters will equip you with the right skill set to speak and to lead.
Speaking is not difficult but it’s powerful. It requires understanding of its power and a lot of training. Once you master the art of speaking, you need to polish it, slowly, skillfully. The best investment you can do for yourself and for others!
Day 555. Public speaking is said to said to be feared more than death. It’s so feared that it has its own word: glossophobia. If public speaking scares you, the best advice I can give is to join an organization as Toastmasters international or take courses to overcome this anxiety and help you deliver confidently speeches. However, over the years, with training and experience (nothing replaces experience in that matter), I came with three easy and simple hacks to overcome fear of public speaking. They do not require a PhD to understand or to apply. It’s jolly effective though! Here they are:
- Write and rehearse. At the exception of impromptu speeches, all prepared speeches need to be written in extenso. From the first to the last word. Not that you will be reading your speech, but writing is the first killer of anxiety. The second killer is to rehearse, rehearse, and when you are over, rehearse again. For a national contest, I repeat a minimum fifty times (yes fifty, five zero) my speech. I will know it by heart, but will rarely deliver the same words. It just anchors the flow and the ideas. Even the best actors rehearse, so should you!
- Breathe. Breathing is essential to speaking. Because while speaking you exhale, you need to inhale. Focus on your breathing. I actually do a dozens of deep breathing before stepping on stage. Not only it will calm you down, it will add extra oxygen in your blood that can get you a little bit dizzy, this will contribute to getting relaxed.
- Speak slowly. Let me tell you that everybody speaks too fast! If you think you are going too slow, record and listen. There is a big chance you will find you still speak too fast. You need to slow down from the beginning to allow you to breathe, to articulate, and to pause. If you speak slowly, you can accelerate to emphasize some dramatic pieces. There is a difference between pace and tone. You can have a joyful tone while going slowly. Do not fall in the trap of becoming monotonous, but allow yourself to slow down.
Of course, this addresses only the delivery of any public speech and not its content. The content will require another post, but you will find in this article from inc.com, 20 great advices, as well as 20 TED and TEDx videos to see different styles and effectiveness. I want to live you with one simple thought: stage fright is normal. Everybody has it! The day it disappears is the day you are becoming complacent and do not grow anymore. Do not be scared by stage fright, welcome it! It’s the signal that what you’re about to do matters to you! Just go and plunge!
Il y a six mois, je recevais un courriel me proposant de faire un TEDx Talk pour l’événement inaugural de TEDx à Maurice. Non seulement, je ne pouvais refuser une telle offre, mais c’était un rêve devenu réalité. Le chemin a été semé de difficultés, mais après une annulation et un volume non déclaré de sueur, le TEDx Plaine Wilhems a eu lieu le 31 janvier à Bagatelle. Je reviendrais sur les leçons de TEDx, en attendant, vous pouvez accéder à mon Talk directement ici (en anglais).
Six month ago, I was receiving an email proposing me to deliver a TEDx Talk during the first TEDx event in Mauritius. Not only, I could not say no to such an offer, but it was, for me a dream becoming reality. The journey was full of hurdles, but after one cancellation and an undisclosed volume of sweat, the TEDx Plaine Wilhems event took place on January 31 in Bagatelle. I will come back on the lessons learned during the preparation of this talk, and you can access to my TEDx talk here.