Over the recent weeks, I have been delighted to see the comeback of sizeable corporate events, conferences, seminars and fora. It has been a joy to watch business professionals and leaders getting together physically in the same space to share insights, experiences, current trends and prospects about the future.
Even if virtual and hybrid are now here to stay, nothing beats that energy and feeling of getting together in the same room to discuss and share ideas, creating a sense of synergy that aligns minds and hearts together. There is something magical in that. At least, that’s how it feels for me!
With the onset of these events, the chances for you as a professional or expert in your field, to be asked to speak and share your message at one of these occasions can be fairly high. You might get invited to speak at a panel, facilitate a discussion or deliver a talk. If you are not experienced in the arena of public speaking, the first thought that might come to your mind when you receive an invite might be to give it a miss, as you feel you are not yet ready for such an engagement. That would truly be a missed opportunity! Why let such a fantastic chance go to waste?
Early in my career, a leader advised me that being visible is important if I want to score high. He was right, at least 50 per cent right. The other half is speaking up. So today, whenever I get invited to speak to young people, as a Communication Skills Coach I always share this advice with them, ‘Show up and Speak up’ because experience has proved to me how impactful this can be in one’s career.
So, I have prepared some tips to help you be ready for these speaking opportunities and to enable you to show up with courage:
Let your passion guide the way. Instead of worrying about how you are being perceived which can make you anxious, think of sharing your ideas with others. You have a great opportunity to speaking about a subject that you are truly comfortable with and passionate about. When you view speaking as a service to others, it helps with nervousness. You have something important to share, otherwise you would not have been asked to speak. So, focus on the message and on being your authentic and whole self during the presentation to help you stay grounded.
Tell a story during your talk that relates to the information you want to share. Stories are remembered more than straight data, and it makes you as the presenter come across as more genuine and relatable. You need to make sure that the story conveys the right message to your audience. Using humour often helps. Rehearse the story with coworkers or friends to make sure it resonates and has the intended impact.
If you are nervous about speaking in public you can reduce your stress levels by preparing in advance and knowing the content very well. Plan your speaking outline by preparing talking points that are brief and not too wordy. It is easier to remember and refer to speaking points as opposed to paragraphs, especially during actual presentations. Include examples and stories as these are an effective way to help you feel more at ease. Rehearse the presentation so that you become more comfortable with the flow of ideas, your rhythm and pace. You can also practice Q&A in advance with someone you trust, having them ask you prepared questions and giving you the opportunity to rehearse taking questions from the audience.
Keep in mind that we are all human and it would not be the end of the world if you stumble over your words or have to take a minute to breathe and refocus on your message and presentation. In fact, most people actually appreciate authenticity far more than perfection. Once you allow yourself to make mistakes without self-punishment or worry, the pressure to be perfect disappears.
Adopt a conversational style of talking. Avoid sounding scripted or as though you’re saying things that you have memorised, as that places you at risk of being too lost in your own head. Envision your talk as a one-to-one conversation where your objective is to engage with your audience. Remember that a presentation or a talk is not a recital of information but a moment of connecting with others.
Whether you’ll be speaking in front of a large group or a small one, the goal is still to connect and convey a message. Seize your chance to influence people about the ideas that you are passionate about. Share your message and win their hearts. It can be your chance to offer others an insight or an experience that they currently lack. Go for it and perform at your best!
Michelle Fenech Seguna is the Founder and Director of Speak to Move, offering professional training programmes which enable participants to communicate confidently and present powerfully in business and social situations. Michelle is based in Malta, where she offers executive coaching and corporate group training. To know more about Speak to Move services you can reach Michelle Fenech Seguna on[email protected] or accesswww.speaktomove.com.mt for more information.
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