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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

Other than “practice makes perfect,” what’s one tip you have for fellow entrepreneurs about to speak in front of a big crowd?

1. Put Purpose at the Forefront

Brett Farmiloe

    Start with why you’re there (i.e., what’s the purpose of your talk?). End with your purpose, and use everything in between the bookends of your talk to support your purpose. When purpose is at the forefront of a talk, the audience acts.

    Brett Farmiloe, Internet Marketing Agency

    2. Understand Your Audience

    Dan Price

      Understand your audience: who they are, what they care about, what they want to hear and where they’re coming from. Don’t think about what you want to share. Instead, focus on how they are looking to grow and what experience you can share that will help them get what they want out of it.

      Dan Price, Gravity Payments

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      3. Tell Stories

      allie siarto

        Stories will always connect with an audience on a much deeper level than facts. Even if you’re presenting on something technical or instructional, try to weave personal stories into your entire speech to relate back to the audience and keep them engaged.

        Allie Siarto, Loudpixel

        4. Know Yourself

        Suzanne Smith

          Figure out what drives you best during these speeches. For me, it is the energy of the audience, so I spend the first 10 minutes talking to people and introducing myself to develop an instant rapport once I start speaking. I use their names and talk to their interests, which always helps me tailor the message and maintain their interest.

          Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

          5. Embrace the Nerves

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          James Simpson

            Always keep in mind that even the most accomplished speakers get nervous leading up to public speaking. It is completely natural. The nerves are actually a good thing and can be used to your advantage if channeled correctly. Those nerves get adrenaline pumping through your veins similar to what a professional athlete might experience. Use this to your advantage to deliver a knockout speech.

            James Simpson, GoldFire Studios

            6. Know Your Content

            Patrick Conley

              There’s a big difference between relying on a slide deck for the content of your talk and just keeping to a rough outline. If you know your content so well that you can have a no-stress casual conversation off-stage about it all day long, you’ll be much more comfortable on stage. Giving a speech where you need to constantly read off cheat cards is a recipe for disaster.

              Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

              7. Use a Personal Mantra

              Matt ehrlichman

                “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” That’s what I repeat to myself every time I’m about to speak in front of a large crowd. No matter how many times I do it, big crowds still get my adrenaline pumping, and sometimes I speak too quickly as a result. Having a mantra helps ground me and remind me to chill out and be myself. I find this works great for job interviews and investor pitches as well.

                Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

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                8. Be Human

                Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer

                  Approach the crowd like you’re having a conversation with a friend. Assume everyone there likes you, wants to hear what you have to say and wants to grab a beer with you afterwards. Talk like a human, act like a human, and own it.

                  Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR

                  9. Breathe

                  Derek Flanzraich

                    Nothing can be more powerful than acknowledging, embracing and taking charge of your breath before speaking in front of a large audience. Breathe in to the big moments, and breathe out to pause between them.

                    Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

                    10. Speak From the Heart

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                    Andy Karuza

                      The only thing worse than not being prepared is preparing too much. If you’re going to speak in front of an audience, it should come naturally. It should be prepared in advance, but not recited. If you plan your speech verbatim, you run the risk of losing the beat and getting lost when you stumble. However, if you focus on fewer high-level points, you can speak intuitively around those.

                      Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee

                      11. Believe You’re the Expert

                      Logan Lenz

                        I often perform best when I convince myself that everyone in the room wants to hear what I have to say. If you are positioned as an expert and attendees are in need of your knowledge, speaking confidently will come much more easily. Besides, speaking with confidence will ensure that the audience trusts that you know your stuff.

                        Logan Lenz, Endagon

                        12. Work on the Climax

                        Derek Capo

                          When you speak, it is important to construct the speech like a movie. Your audience needs to be able to be attentive from the very beginning. If not, you will lose them for the rest of the speech. Once you have your hook, you need to lead them to the climax of the story or what you are tying communicate. Make the people feel that they were part of the story and get emotionally tied to it.

                          Derek Capo, Next Step China

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                          Last Updated on January 15, 2021

                          7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                          7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                          The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

                          Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

                          Posture

                          First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

                          • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
                          • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
                          • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
                          • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

                          All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

                          Facial Expressions

                          Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

                          • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
                          • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
                          • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

                          If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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                          1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

                          A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

                          The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

                          This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

                          2. Relax Your Face

                          New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

                          The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

                          To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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                          3. Improve Your Eye Contact

                          Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

                          The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

                          To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

                          3. Smile More

                          There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

                          Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

                          4. Hand Gestures

                          Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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                          It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

                          5. Enhance Your Handshake

                          In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

                          “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

                          It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

                          6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

                          As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

                          Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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                          Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

                          Final Takeaways

                          Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

                          If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

                          More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

                          Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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