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Public speaking and other deathdefying

by Pamela Mulhearn

Her Podium

Question: I am asked to speak in front of groups and give presentations to customers. What are some tips that can be adopted to make it a little less nervewracking?

Answer: The majority of the population ranks fear of public speaking up near fear of death. The good news is, if you are not born with a love of standing in front of a group to present, it can be a learned skill. Without at least a small amount of speaking confidence your world remains small, safe and without opportunity. I had always struggled with public speaking, having all the physical and emotion symptoms that go along with it. I was held back from countless opportunities because I avoided public speaking situations. Once I enrolled in a presentation skills program and empowered my voice, that all changed.

With practice and adopting simple tips and strategies you can become more confident even when you are shaking in your shoes. Women who have graduated from the programs see life-changing improvements, both personally and professionally. Below are 10 tips and strategies that can help anyone feel more confident presenting their next speech.

Be prepared: Always have a comfortable level of preparedness. Understanding and knowing your material is the single most important part of giving a presentation or speech. When you feel confident in your content, that confidence will translate to your audience. Even when you are feeling nervous, you can rely on being prepared to help you override the fear. Good speakers always look confident on the outside. They may not be feeling it on the inside, but they can tame the fear with preparation.

Consider yourself the fourth-grader in a room of third-graders: Remember back in third grade when you thought fourth-graders were the coolest and smartest students? We considered them to be the expert in all things third grade because they had completed the grade and knew it all. When you get in front of a group to speak, consider yourself the fourthgrader in a room of third-graders. To your audience, you are cool, smart, confident and know things that your audience does not.

Use the pause: The 'pause' is your friend. It allows you to take a moment to collect your thoughts. The pause helps you avoid using filler words (the ahs and ums), and it gives the audience a chance to digest what you are saying. It can be uncomfortable to experience silence as a speaker, but a strategically placed pause will allow you to place emphasis on a point.

Dress one level up: When you dress one level up from your audience, it automatically gives you the appearance of authority and expertise. This is a small and easy thing for any speaker to do. As football great Deion Sanders says, “Look good, feel good, play good.” Dressing well can have a positive impact on your confidence and lead to a better performance.

Command the room: When you walk up to the lectern, to the front of the room or the head of the table to speak, stride with purpose. Look your audience in the eye. Smile and let your inner confidence shine through for those waiting to hear you speak. Even if you are nervous on the inside, act as if you are the best speaker your audience has ever had the opportunity to hear. Act as if you own the room. Remember, no one knows what you are going to say until you say it.

Slow down: When presenters speak quickly it is usually because they are nervous. Slow it down. Speak like you were having

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a conversation with someone one-on-one. A more moderate pace helps you to appear confident. Rushing through a presentation is a common side effect of nerves and can result in a strained, out-of-breath voice. Slow it down and keep your voice projection strongly. But vary the pace and volume of your voice to keep the audience engaged.

Keeper of the knowledge: Speak to your audience as if you are the keeper of the knowledge you are sharing. Mentally, consider yourself the expert and authority. You are experienced in this information and are showing up to hand over this material. The audience is more likely to sit forward and listen when you speak as the keeper of the knowledge.

Economy of words: Do not overpack your presentation with too many subjects, themes or words. Too much and the audience begins to drift away. The audience cannot absorb all the information and is left wondering what the speaker was talking about. An overpacked speech generally lacks focus and fails to highlight the important points. One rule of thumb is that listeners can accept only seven new pieces of information before something has to be replaced. Listeners can effectively digest only a limited amount of material, so choose carefully what you want to emphasize. It is better to have a few memorable points than many forgettable ones.

Bring your audience on a journey: If you go into your presentation with the idea the audience is riding along with you on your presentation, they become friendlier. Imagine that your audience showed up for you to take them on a trip somewhere. That somewhere is your topic. It should have a clear introduction, body and conclusion. These elements correspond to a trip’s departure, travel and arrival.

The closing: Close the presentation with a purpose. Give a brief summary of what you presented, beginning with your opening statement. Your introduction and closing should bring the audience full circle. Do not forget to include a “call to action.” Give your audience a task to leave with. Do you want them to buy something, to donate to a cause, to shift their thinking on the topic you discussed, or to contact you for more information? Make sure what you're asking of the audience is clear. Pamela Mulhearn, CPC, is the CEO and founder of Her Podium, Public Speaking Programs for women. Tips from SCORE is hosted by SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands. For free and confidential mentoring, visit capecod. score.org, capecodscore@verizon.net or call 508-775-4884. Ask us about our webinar program, mentoring and advisory teams. Download today: Free eBook Tips from SCORE Vol. II amazon. com/dp/B08QPR7G35.

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