A couple of years ago, I decided to do something about my fear of public speaking. Like any fear, it was a self-limiting belief that was a constant burden.
I joined a Toastmasters club, researched best practices and found interesting research from fields like psychology, sociology and business.
Armed with this experience and knowledge, I was able to hack my speaking skills and get better at a fast pace.
Speaking in public is a challenge. But it can definitely be overcome–and even become something you enjoy–by following some awesome speaking tricks that I will share with you today.
I have them listed by tricks for You and tricks for Them.
Speaking tricks for you are hacks that will help you become more confident, relaxed, and at ease when speaking.
Speaking tricks for them are hacks that will help make you a more effective and entertaining speaker.
Find your idol
I can’t speak like Tony Robbins or like Martin Luther King. Their speaking styles are different from mine. So when I am trying to become a better speaker, I don’t see them as my idols. Instead, I look for great speakers that are like me. People like Malcom Gladwell and Alain de Botton are perfect idols for me to learn from. They are more pensive and light-hearted, like me. Look for speakers who are more like you and learn from them.
Meet the strangers
Before I speak, I always try to meet as many people in the audience as I can. By doing this, I have turned a bunch of strangers into familiar faces. I am also able to find the “friendly face”. This is someone who is naturally supportive and enthusiastic. They are the person you can go back to whenever you’re speaking and feeling nervous or need a morale boost. There’s always at least one in the group — another reason to meet your audience!
Think of pictures taken of the aftermath of a disaster. You’ll see a lot of people hugging and embracing each other. When going through a challenging situation, we crave human touch, and standing in front of a crowd to say a few words is definitely challenging. If you feel overwhelmed or scared, use this speaking trick: gently press your thumb and ring finger together and rub them together. You can also clasp your hands every now and then. It’s a subtle, but effective, way to make yourself feel safer.
Your audience is listening to every word you are saying (hopefully!). This is when you need your wits. Research shows that when our bodies are on the move, our brains gets more oxygen, which helps increase mental sharpness. (Yet another reason to add some physical activity to your day). Find ways of moving around during your speech. Walk from one end of the stage to the other. Use your body language to deliver your message. Ditch the podium and expand your space. Whatever you can do to get oxygen flowing to your noggin.
Keep it simple
You may be telling people a guaranteed way to making one million dollars, but if that message is too elaborate, you will lose them to Angry Birds. Use the rule of three when building your speeches. All speeches must have no more than three key messages you want you audience to learn. Think of those three things and build your speech around them.
Say it again and again and again
The Big Lie is a sociological phenomenon that describes how anything, even a lie, can become true in your head by pure repetition. Business leaders say they need to deliver a message at least seven times for it to be well known. This tells you that anything important must be repeated as much as possible. Find ways of delivering the same message in different ways so that it sticks.
Tell me a story
We love stories. Storytelling is as old as writing and drawing. Mythology and religion have thrived in part because they use many stories to describe truths and beliefs. Most if not all great speakers are also fantastic storytellers. And telling a story is not hard. It’s quite easy, just follow this method: talk about the past, then about the present, and finally about the future. It sounds simplistic, but this is how all good stories are built.
Time is subjective
Tempo is how fast you speak, and it’s crucial for delivering your message with clarity. One day I rehearsed a speech for my fiancee. At one point I cringed at the extra long pause I took. Afterwards, I asked her for feedback she didn’t even mention it. She said there was no such pause in the speech, and that I should slow down, as I was going too fast. When you are speaking and have the spotlight, and so time feels a lot faster because of this heightened sense of awareness. Consider that when you are speaking. Aim for speaking a bit slower than usual.
Human attention is short. This has even been quantified by John Medina, a cognitive scientist and writer of Brain Rules. After 10 minutes, people’s attention starts to drop when they are in a passive role, like being in a meeting, a classroom, or listening to your mom talk to you about multivitamins. To prevent this from happening when you have the floor, add something intriguing every now and then. A stunning visual, a controversial question, or a funny story. Do as much as you can to defy your audience’s expectations, and you’ll keep their attention throughout.