- public speaking
- tight spaces.
- Know your stuff. Actually, know even more stuff. I find that it works best for me to know more about the subject than I’ll even get to share with my audience. A wealth of knowledge makes me a richer and more confident speaker. It also prepares me to answer questions afterward.
- Be prepared…and more prepared. Even today I go over my messages verbally–standing at my kitchen table and talking to an audience of two disinterested dogs–at least four to eight times before I ever present them to real, live, breathing, thinking people. And I’ve found there is a direct and stark correlation between the number of times I rehearse and the success of my actual presentation.
- Get the timing down. Some people think they’re not going to have enough to say and end up saying way too much. Others think they’ve planned for an hour and end up giving their audience a 10 minute teaser. Once again, rehearsing is the best cure for either extreme. But I’ve found I speak faster to my people audience than I do my dogs, so I always allow for the difference.
- Put the clothes back on your audience. You’ve heard people–usually on television shows–say “Envision your audience all in their underwear and you won’t be as nervous.” Well, people in their underwear would make me squirm with discomfort. So instead give your audience a little more dignity than that. Envision them as an intelligent, curious, and deeply interested crew. Don’t convince yourself they’re mocking you or bored with you. That’s rarely the case, especially if you’ve followed my first three tips.
- Pray and breathe right before. I always take a few moments to ask God to help me speak so that I am understood. I don’t ask Him to make me amazing to my audience, but just get the message across despite any errors I may make. That kind of prayer keeps my ego from tripping me up before I even take the stage. I also try to get my breathing under control before I approach the platform, otherwise I find myself operating breathless throughout my speech, causing my words to sound choppy. Just consciously breathe in and out, nice and deep and slow, before your name is announced.
- Know where you’re going and go. I find that the less I need to refer to my notes, the better. Instead I try to map out my message like a walk down the street. I imagine I’m walking someone from point A to point B and telling them about the things we’re passing on the way. That means I need to have “walked this proverbial path” so many times beforehand that I couldn’t possibly get lost, even if I encountered a “storm” on the way. When I walk my audience through my message rather than present it to them from my notes, I give a more engaging message and I find it easier on me as well.
- Practice. Not just in front of your dogs, however. Practice by speaking to real groups of real human beings. The more you speak in front of others, the better you will get at it.
More than likely you will need to present a message to a crowd of your peers sometime this next year, whether it’s a Sunday school lesson, a committee report, or a MOPS devotional. I hope these tips help you deliver like a pro.
Do you have any tips for overcoming the fear of public speaking? What has helped you deliver a message in front of a group of your peers?