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Tuesday 18 June 2019
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Mastering the art of public speaking

Question

Dear AFETT,

I just started my small business consultancy and would like to promote my business and my brand by doing more public speaking engagements and interviews on the electronic media. The problem is that I am an extreme introvert and terrified of public speaking and putting myself out there. Help!

Shy Susan

Hi Shy Susan,

You might be surprised to find out that you are not alone. Discomfort with public speaking is widespread even among top executives who seemingly appear self-confident and comfortable at a podium or doing a television interview. Their secret – knowledge, preparation and purpose (your why).

The reality is that you have a choice between giving into your fears which may slow down your business progress, or facing the challenge head on and seeing your brand profile raise significantly when you are called upon frequently to speak at high-profile events and are hailed as a thought leader in your industry.

Here are tips for getting out of your own way and “crushing” this challenge:

Be aware of some mental barriers that can affect the confident delivery of your speech or presentation – for example, self-consciousness (wondering how you look or sound); lack of self-confidence (not having a good self-image and underestimating your ability). Progressively work on reducing these negative emotions and focus on the positive attributes you bring to the table. Every day, speak aloud affirmations that reinforce your fabulousness.

Control your body language. Be mindful of the messages conveyed by your body language – your facial expressions, hand gestures, head, shoulders and feet movements as well as overall body posture. Self-consciousness in speech delivery is public enemy number one. Practice walking confidently to and from a mock podium at home, keeping your body upright and shoulders squared. Remember that in some cases you will be sitting at a head table facing an audience so practice sitting up straight with a confident posture.

Check your poise, that first impression that your audience gets when they see you at the head table. Don’t assume that they will only judge you after you begin speaking. They would have already formed their opinions based on perusal of you from the minute you can be seen sitting at the head table. Remember, if you look calm, self-assured and confident, your audience will pick up on these signals and be more open to your message. Key take away – keep on your A-game from the time you arrive to the very last minute you leave the venue.

Manage your stage fright. Accept that your fear exists and is real. Channel your nervous energy into positive internal emotions and thoughts that make you more comfortable with your task. Above all, if you make a mistake while delivering your speech or during your interview, never let it throw you off balance. Simply acknowledge briefly and move right along.

Research your audience beforehand. Audiences vary on a spectrum from disinterested to enthusiastic. Before giving any speech or presentation, know who the potential audience will be so that you can tailor your delivery accordingly. Be prepared, however, to switch gears if at the actual event, the audience vibe is different from what you expected. Don’t be afraid to ad lib and engage them on a more personal level.

Knowledge is key. Above all, as an industry expert you should be armed with facts, figures and illustrations – among other things – to effectively and credibly deliver a speech to any audience (your peers or complete strangers). Structure your speech so that it is clear, concise, logical and will inform, motivate and even entertain your audience. Cue cards can aid in speech delivery so that you avoid reading verbatim from a long prepared speech which does not always endear you to a restless audience. Make use of visual aids such as Power Point presentations, short videos, pictures etc. Be prepared to respond to various questions on your topic that you may not have considered in your initial approach. You also need to be flexible so that you can change the angle of your talk if it helps you to connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Always remember that eye contact is critical to keeping an audience interested in what you have to say and keeping you in touch with the varying and changing mood of your audience. If you sense they are getting bored or confused, change your tack or start throwing questions out to them to stimulate interest.

Use the tips outlined above to prepare for your speech or television and radio interviews and don’t be afraid to practice in front of a mirror or do a test run for a few friends or colleagues.

You've got this.

AFETT

AFETT is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2002 with the goal of bringing together professional women and engaging in networking opportunities, professional training and business ideas. ASK AFETT is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals seeking advice to assist in progressing in their careers. Today's response was written by AFETT member, Colleen Cameron, manager of Ebony Belle Communiques. Learn more about AFETT at www.afett.com, search for AFETT Events on Facebook, follow us @AFETTEXECS on Twitter or contact us at (868) 343-2160. Email us your career-related questions at admin.afett@gmail.com.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors, meant strictly as advice and guidance, based upon their experience and expertise. In no way are they meant to be legally binding upon AFETT and or its members, servants nor agents.

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