There is no better education than sink or swim...well, that is if you have mentors who will help guide you, be brutally honest, and inspire you to connect with what makes you great.
Then, if you drown, it's on you.
So, in an effort to see more people swim (rather than sink) while public speaking, I wanted to share a few pieces of advice.
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The first bit of advice I received as a broadcaster came from Michael Landsberg (Off The Record Host) in the minutes leading up to a live panel discussion pre-Vancouver 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies (...over 20 million viewers).
Landsberg said, "If you talk longer than 10 seconds, I'll cut you off."
(It should be noted, Landsberg and I got along great, and grew into friends while working together during those Games)
This advice may have come off strong in the moment, but I listened and he was right. Since that moment, my efforts to find 'Economy of Language' (limiting my words to only what's needed) is something I strive for, & struggle with, every time I stand in front of a camera.
My purpose for this story is that advice comes in many forms and that public speaking isn't easy, for anyone. All you can do is learn, grow, and give yourself a break. Only then will you start tapping into your potential as a public speaker.
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Ok, enough about me (Tip 0.9 - it's not about you!) let's delve into some TIPS:
1) Tell A Story - & save that punch line
Story telling is the essence of public speaking and is what best enables speakers to connect with their audience.
To help you tell stories, dig into your memory bank and focus on the basics you learned in grade school. To start, keep your story simple to start and clearly define the 'beginning, middle & end'.
As for the punch line, I learned the error of my ways the hard way...live to air with millions watching (ok, thousands is more likely, but you get the point).
Many of us, in an effort to hit all our 'bullet points' and get out what we're so excited to share, we lose the audience by giving away the 'punch line' or 'juicy nuggets' of our stories too early.
Draw your audience in, linger just long enough with the story to create anticipation, then wrap it up with a bow. Simply put, save the best for last!
*Give your audience credit & trust they'll follow you down the rabbit hole and not get lost
2) Strive For Authenticity - you won't go wrong
If your goal is to be liked, you're setting yourself up for failure. However, if your goal is to be authentic - then whether the crowd likes you or not is irrelevant.
This was a new approach for me after reading some of Brené Brown's work. She uses a mantra that I too find helpful:
"Don't Shrink. Don't Puff Up.
Stand on your sacred ground."
*When speaking, if you were authentically you, that counts as a success
3) Know Your Quirks - 'um', 'ah', waving hands, staring at the floor, etc.
Look for someone who's honest enough to help you identify your public speaking weaknesses. (I have a left arm that has a mind of it's own...and I had no idea until a producer & cameraman recently told me.)
No partner? Try filming your speech and watch it back. Look for signs that might hinder your ability to connect with an audience.
Look for things like: saying 'um' or 'ah', repeating words, staring at the floor, excessive hand gestures, speaking too quickly, etc.
*Once you know what your quirks are, bring awareness to them. Then, slow down your cadence and work to eliminate one at a time through practice
4) Let It Breath - pauses are key to any great speech
Taking a moment to pause on stage can feel like a lifetime, but they are critically important to your audience. A well timed pause adds strength to your message and gives your audience time to absorb it.
*Side bonus, pauses give you time to think and find clarity heading into your next point
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Last piece of advice, learn from the best athletes in the world and do as they do:
Take the advice that fits your needs, and ditch the rest.
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