As a voice specialist, I teach people not only how to improve the sound of the speaking voice but also how to be a dynamic public speaker. Below are listed the 5 most important things you should do that will allow you to control your nervousness as well as deliver a dynamic presentation. Notice that I said control your nervousness and not eliminate it. Nervousness is excellent: it’s that extra spurt of adrenaline that can truly give you the edge in public speaking. The secret, however, lies in learning how to control it, not get rid of it!
The 1st is The Intellectual. You must know your material – if that means staying up all night, so be it. Your adrenaline will get you through it and you can crash later. While I am an advocate of good rest and proper nutrition, if you are scheduled to speak, there’s a good chance you won’t sleep the night before anyway. By knowing your material, I’m referring to practicing it out loud. I can’t tell you the number of people who come to me for a class or a session and admit to me that they ‘read their presentation over’ in their mind or that they perused it. Reading it over in your mind is entirely different from saying your words out loud. Your audience is there to hear you speak to them. If you plan to read it, why not copy it, pass it out, and then everyone can go home!
The 2nd secret is The Physical. There are a multitude of books and courses available on public speaking, but you will find very few that talk about one of the best means of controlling nervousness and that is through diaphragmatic breathing. When I work with clients as well as in my DVD series, the first thing I teach is how to breathe with the support of the diaphragm, something the majority of the population are not doing. We are renowned for being lazy or shallow breathers using only the upper portion of the chest for respiration. Not only does lazy or shallow breathing increase our stress but it also means that the voice box, throat, mouth and/or nose are the primary amplifiers for the voice. By breathing with the support of the diaphragm, however, you are then able to utilize your chest as your major sounding board, your major amplifier. The result is a warmer, richer, resonant speaking voice which has the ability to be increased in volume without shouting. Breathlessness will be no more; the quiver will be gone; vocal abuse will end; and, you will discover total control over your voice and your nerves! For public speaking, it is the smartest and the best thing you can do.
The Social secret is the ability to treat your audience just as if you were having a conversation in your living room. So often when we get up to the lectern or stand at the boardroom table, we think we should be something or someone we’re not. I want you to be you. The best speakers are those who are themselves, which means making eye contact with your listeners. You will discover that you will feel more comfortable if you zoom in on your smilers (every audience has them!) than if you stare at an object on the wall or imagine that your audience is sitting in their underwear! The idea is to speak to your audience, not at them, and, that is only possible when you connect with your audience.
The 4th component is The Emotional. Speaking with life, with emotion, with expression is known as color, that which makes your delivery truly dynamic. There is no right or wrong with color except having none which is known as boring or monotoned. Color is not only heard in the voice but it is also seen in your facial expression as well as your body language. While many people are colorful in conversation, at the lectern there are those whose nervousness is so great that all color drains from their face as well as the rest of their delivery. Learning to control your nervousness means allowing yourself to be expressive.
The last secret for dynamic speaking is The Spiritual, believing in yourself. If you walk up to that lectern thinking you can’t do it, how successful do think you will be? For the A-type personality, forget perfection because if you insist on being perfect you will fail. What is perfection in a live performance? Who is to say it is perfect? Truly great speakers make mistakes. Chances are you will make a mistake. Every broadcaster on radio and TV makes mistakes. It is common; it is natural; it is normal. (I’m not talking about lots of mistakes – that happens when you’re not prepared.) So don’t let a mistake throw you. Fix it, if need be, and move on. Forget perfection and tell yourself instead that you are going to do the best job that you can do. And then do it.
Visit The Voice Lady’s blog and watch a brief video as she describes The 5 Characteristics of Dynamic Public Speaking