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When you next speak you will be ready. You will be calm, collected, and prepared to address the crowd, right? It could happen. Here’s how.

Begin by changing the way you look at nervousness. Some years ago, my youngest son was preparing for a very competitive soccer game. He explained to his older brother that he always seems to get nervous right before such a match. His older brother then shared an impressive view on nervousness. He taught that it could be viewed as a sign that the body was gearing up for the big game. He suggested that the nerves his younger brother was experiencing were related to heightened perception, increased heart rate oxygenating his systems, and muscle tenseness in preparation of the event. “Just think of it as your body getting ready to do its best” he said.

Many speakers experience similar nervousness and perhaps even trepidation. They may experience dry mouth, a racing heart rate, nervous stomach, or sweaty palms as they take the stage. Are you one of them? Such feelings are common. Perhaps it is just your body getting ready to do its best.

We all experience fear in one form or another, especially when all eyes are focused on us. Public speaking is commonly dreaded for that very reason. The phenomenon known as glossophobia, is the intense anxiety of public speaking. Some statistics place fear of speaking more rampant than fear of snakes or even fear of death. Imagine, greater than fear of death? Recognize that one’s perspective is their reality. Fear only knows what feeds it. Below, I discuss 10 time-proven tips to improve your ability to address a large group.

10) Master listening before speaking.

Begin to interact with others in such a way that you increase your ability to listen. While conversing, instead of thinking about what you might next say, redirect your full attention to what the other person is saying. Think only about fully understanding her. This practice prepares you to improve your speaking. It helps you easily recognize speaking cues that make listening more rewarding. Great listeners make better speakers.

9) Aim for the heart.

If you want to draw in the crowd, speak to their hearts. People of all shapes and sizes, status, and position are sitting in the audience. Like you, they have feelings that create emotion and energy. People gravitate to speakers who move them. Your audience is not critiquing you, rather they are anxious for you to be successful. Most audiences are very kind and looking forward to the experience.

8) Fluff is for pillows, speak on purpose.

Keep your content relevant. Your speech should address the topic, clarify the issues, and form a story allowing the listener to easily assimilate the material. This is true of your medium selection as well. Avoid multiple fly-in, fly-out, trapezoid blasts and color bursts throughout your screen presentation. Instead use materials that allow you convey a message succinctly with a purpose. Content that is easily assimilated wins.

7) “Ready–FIRE!–aim” reduces your chances.

You can’t hit a target that doesn’t exist. Know your target. Get ready to speak to that specific audience. Take aim, then fire! You will know when you have hit the bullseye.

6) Find a mentor. Free advice is too expensive!

Enough said.

5) Body language is vital. Review past speeches with the sound muted.

This advice is soundless. Watch your speech visually, purposefully. How do you utilize your body language, stage presence, actions, gestures, and hand movements to add expression and distinction to the words you have formed? Are you pacing? Do you lack energy? Be effective by attracting the glance as well as the mind.

4) Eye to eye connectivity draws in the audience.

This refers to seeing people. More than looking in their direction, seeing people in the audience should include reading their faces for emotional feedback, checking for understanding, and perceiving cognition. The best speakers draw energy from the crowd.

3) Humor increases oxygen to the brain. Make them laugh.

Spontaneous humor is best. And it requires practice. Typically, you are more apt to be funny if you plan to be. This is not to say that canned humor is funny, generally it is not. But the patterns of humor are effective. For instance, a surprising statement in a list of expected statements will always raise a brow: “I had everything I needed to successfully traverse the rigorous trail on my mountain bike; my helmet, my gloves, and my assorted bandages!”

2) Pause for effect.

Pause momentarily when you first take the stage. The applause, side talking, and the rustling of bodies must first fade. Wait at least 10 seconds (to you it will seem like 3 minutes) for the audience to settle and they will be more inclined to listen. Additionally, while speaking, your purposeful use of pausing can break the monotony. Rambling on and on can be lethal, yet, an effective pause will heighten awareness. This skill must be developed and used subtly in small doses. Too much pausing may be worse than rambling.

1) Smile like you mean it. And mean it.

A smiling sales clerk will attract more customers, more friends, and more opportunities. A smiling speaker will create greater reception. Too much smiling and in odd places of the speech, will come across as insincere, however. A true smile will do wonders. After all, the audience will be looking at your face.

Success to you. Enjoy the show. Where possible, invite someone close to you to attend your speech. They will see the best in you. This can bolster your confidence and provide access to honest feedback.


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