The feeling is familiar: pounding heart, sweaty palms, weak legs, the ocean roaring in your ears. Whether you’re presenting to an audience of hundreds, or just a few people with a lot of power, public speaking can be a harrowing experience.
When the pressure of presenting well can make or break a career, we perceive the potential failure as a threat, which kicks us into fight-or-flight mode. Unfortunately, if you’re prone to nerves when talking in front of an audience, you need to fight thousands of years of evolutionary biology to power through.
Just because the cards may be stacked against you, doesn’t mean you still can’t come out on top. But, how to master public speaking? The key, especially in business meetings, is to learn techniques that will convey your thoughts clearly and succinctly, regardless of how nervous you may be feeling. That anxiety may not ever fully leave you, but here are some tips on how to become a stronger presenter.
Focus on the Finish Line
Like most work-related tasks, approaching public speaking from a goal-oriented mindset will help focus your thoughts and guide your concentration. When in a business meeting ask yourself:
what do you want your audience to take away from your presentation?
Do you want to influence something in the short term, or is this public speech merely part of a longer and larger project?
It’s easier to work toward a finish line if you adopt this goal-oriented approach in multiple aspects of your work life. Sticking to commitments and seeing a goal through from start to finish can be a challenge even for the most disciplined among us. I recommend using a website to help you get into that frame of mind and then stay there. Stickk.com is a great resource for setting goals and completing them.
Follow the Rule of Threes
Once you have a goal planned out, follow the rule of threes to make sure your audience leaves with the right message in their minds. Think of public speaking as being like an essay audiobook. For instance, you should have a thesis and supporting arguments, but you don’t want to have so much information that you overwhelm your listeners.
When presenting at a business meeting try to stick to three main ideas, and really drill those into your audience. Public speaking engagements are limited, as are the capacities of your audience members to absorb information, so keeping it short, sweet, and to the point. As a result, you are sure to make the right impression.
Make the First Seconds Count
An audience can form an opinion about a speaker in as little as 30 seconds, so it’s important to make those first moments count. Therefore, start your presentation with a strong, attention-grabbing statement. This should be something memorable and succinct enough for your listeners to take with them even once your presentation has ended.
For a more in-depth look at how to create a powerful opening statement, check out JustSell’s guide for beginners.
A picture speaks a thousand words, and that includes the image your body gives off. For this reason, to really prepare to speak publicly at a business meeting, you need to know not only what you’re going to say, but also how you’re going to move. What are your hands doing? Do you have any props (pointer, clicker, etc.) that you play with when you’re not thinking? Are you fidgeting in your seat or shifting your weight from foot to foot when you stand?
Practice your presentation while looking at a mirror and observe how you hold yourself. Because a little conscious awareness of your body will help you keep yourself still and show a confident and calm front.
Believe in Yourself, or No One Else Will
The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to master public speaking is that you should always do so with conviction. Do you really believe in what you’re saying? If you don’t, your audience will be able to tell.
Public speaking is most difficult for those who have low self-confidence because listeners can see their self-doubt. There’s no easy fix to building confidence, but even if you’re not sure of yourself, you can still believe fully in the ideas you present.
If your audience walks away from your presentation as strongly convinced of your arguments as you are, you know you’ve done your job correctly.
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