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Four Gutsy Steps to Develop a Zest for PublicSpeaking

Why do many experienced public speakers appear to be enjoying themselves while performing on stage? Would it surprise you to know that they actually are having fun while speaking in front of an audience? Well it’s not as hard as you think for you to look forward with anticipation to what many people see as their top fear in life: public speaking. Your path to success will be accelerated if you apply these four basic principles.

1. Before performing, remind yourself that you will do the best you possibly can. There’s no need to try to be perfect. That’ll just get in the way of your performance.

The notion that we will always do the right thing is far-fetched at best. We need to relieve the pressure we put on ourselves. Is it realistic to think that we should always get a perfect score on our exams? Of course not. Similarly there will be times in life when we fall flat on our faces.

For example, the first time I spoke in front of an audience I was so scared I couldn’t speak. In fact before getting on stage I had a persistent nervous cough that continued for almost 20 minutes. I drank a lot of water. I sat down and meditated. I even took a sedative. No matter what I tried, I could not stop myself from coughing.

What finally worked is when I succeeded in convincing myself to ignore that little voice in my head that was saying “you’ve got to be perfect up there. Don’t blow it.” Well guess what…that voice in our heads is wrong. It’s not about being perfect. Perfection is not the right goal for you because you can always improve your performance. Even world champion speakers will readily admit that they still have room to get better.

Will you have the best performance the world has ever seen? Of course not. That’s unrealistic. Will you have your best performance ever? No. This is just a step on your path to improvement. What your performance will be is the best it can be for this moment in time. Even if you mess up a couple times during your performance.

The key to success in public speaking or any endevour in life is to learn from your mistakes and persevere. As the famous orator Winston Churchill once said, “never, never, ever quit”. As long are you’re practicing your craft, you will be improving.

2. When on stage in midst of performing, don’t worry about where your story is headed.

Public speaking is similar to any other activity in real time, you’ve got to connect with the moment. Thinking ahead while you’re speaking, even for a nanosecond, is distracting and is a sure way to make you lose your train of thought. Focus on the flow of your words and the tonality of your voice. The secret to an effective speech is keeping up with yourself. Your brain must be in synch with your mouth.

If you asked 100 newbie speakers if they thought public speaking could be enjoyable, I’m sure 99 of them would give you an emphatic ‘no’. The one outlier would tell you that if you know your material cold and if you can connect deeply with your audience then the experience can be a rewarding one.

It’s more about enjoying the ride than arriving at your destination. This state of mind is called flow. You can drop into it only by keeping your mind laser focused on what you’re doing. Let the thoughts flow naturally. There’s no right or wrong when you’re in the zone. They’ll be plenty of time to dissect your performance after you’ve finished speaking.

3. After coming off the stage, congratulate yourself for your performance, even if you think you’ve bombed.

There are two ways to look at everything you do: non-judgementally or critically. And there’s a right time to do each. When you step off the stage, remember to give yourself a pat on the back. Public speaking is not easy. Give yourself credit for doing what you set out to do. Beating yourself up is not conducive to your self-confidence. And it certainly won’t help you to get back on stage.

Instead try thinking about the things you did well. Build yourself up. Remind yourself how it felt when the audience responded to your story or laughed at your humor or applauded when you were done. It felt good, didn’t it? It could be 100 people that you made a connection with, or 10 or even one. The quantity doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you communicated your thoughts.

You may never hear directly from anyone in your audience but know that you have impacted their lives simply because you had the courage to speak out and share your ideas. There will be be plenty of time to think about how you could improve your presentation after you are off the stage. However don’t confuse the way you present yourself with the content you share with your audience. Without good ideas form is superfluous. With good form your ideas are elevated.

4. Every individual has a unique personality. There may other people that are similar in certain aspects, but there will never be another person that matches you in your totality.

There is no other person in this world who is exactly like you. You have a unique way in which you express yourself. So why would you want to copy someone else’s style when on stage? You need to speak from your heart to connect with your audience. That’s where your true power comes from. Taking on someone’s style makes your performance appear hollow. The audience can see the difference between authenticity and veneer. Be you on stage.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch and learn from other speakers. I’m saying that the external things you incorporate into your performance must feel natural to you. You need to make it part of you. A good speech will appear spontaneous and unrehearsed. The words will flow naturally from your heart with emotion. Speakers who do not connect with their self will surely not connect with their audience. Don’t speak from the neck up.

Public speaking can be a rewarding experience. Overcoming fear of speaking in front of a large audience is rewarding in itself. In business and in life you’ll be asked to present your ideas in a group setting. Do you want to be the person who’s voice is quivering with sweat pouring down their face? Or would you like to appear poised, powerful and dynamic while clearly expressing your message? With practice you will improve your public speaking skills and even enjoy sharing your ideas on the big stage.

Get your ham on!