How to ace public speaking in 6 simple steps

Terrified of getting up and presenting to a crowd? Expert coach Shola Kaye reveals how to ensure a confident delivery with minimum prep time

What Shola Kaye doesn’t know about public speaking isn’t worth knowing. A professional singer, coach and author of How to be a DIVA at Public Speaking, she works with clients and companies to help women create confident, exciting, stand-out speeches. A former management consultant, she changed career after experiencing a paralysing fear of speaking up during meetings herself,  so she’s coming from a place of empathy. With that in mind, we asked her to share her last minute strategies for success.

Write your main themes or bullet points on a small note card and keep it close to hand during public speaking

Even the world’s top speakers and performers sometimes forget their lines. As you rehearse during the last few days ahead of your speech, use these bullet points as prompts. During your presentation, keep them close by in your jacket pocket or on a side table. If you need to use them, calmly take them out, find your place, and carry on. Don’t apologise or treat it as any sort of weakness that you needed to revert to your note card. Your audience won’t bat an eye.

Create a written checklist of things that might derail your public speaking and manage the risk

When you arrive, ensure your slide presentation works (if you have one). If there’s a technical problem, do you have extra handouts that could be printed? Can you tell longer stories or share case studies to keep the audience engaged? It’s not pessimistic to try to predict problems before they happen –  it’s all about being well-prepared for public speaking.

Make a list of empowering questions and whenever you start doubting yourself, read them!

Most of us tend to doubt ourselves during important moments. When you walk on to that stage you need to project an air of unshakeable positivity and competence. Ask yourself:

‘Which parts will the audience love most?’

‘Why is this talk exciting/inspiring/fascinating?

‘How will this information help my audience?’

‘How will I feel after this presentation goes really well?

public speaking

Think about your stature – stand up tall and allow yourself to breathe

This is an old trick from the  world of acting and performance. Wherever you are at this moment, sit upright or stand up straight. Imagine a silver thread extending from the crown of your head helping to keep your neck and back comfortably extended.  At this point, you’re sitting or standing with good posture but there’s probably tension in your body. The next step, is to allow yourself to breathe. Keep the tall, proud posture but breathe comfortably. You should feel great! This is the stature you should retain when you’re public speaking, whether to CEOs or to little children. Your stature has everything to do with your worth as a human being and nothing to do with the status of those you’re speaking to, so stand tall, be confident and breathe.

Chat to the audience before you go on stage when public speaking

If you can, sit with the audience and make some connections before it’s time to speak. It shows you that the audience is human. They’re individuals with different personalities, expectations and opinions. They want to learn from you or be entertained by you and, importantly, they want you to do well. You can even pretend that the audience is filled with friends and family!

Take your time and remember that your worth as a person has NOTHING to do with your performance

We tend to connect our self-worth with how we perform at various tasks. This can crush us before we even have a chance to speak. It can lead to trembles, blanking out and forgetting to breathe.

A solution?

Perhaps this sounds a bit hokey, but before you go on stage, repeat to yourself slowly and calmly, ‘I am loved. I am loved’. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted. It stems from our caveman fears of being thrown out of the community. These days there aren’t roving wild animals that will eat us and most of us have access to food and shelter, but these fears live on. A simple statement such as ‘I’m accepted’ can calm down our monkey mind and help us focus our resources on giving a great presentation.

Shola Kaye is an author, public speaker, singer & founder of Speak Up Like A DIVA, public speaking classes & coaching for women

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