By: Farheen, Viva Learn Content Contributor
Public speaking sucks. That’s just a fact. Alas, it’s a necessary evil: teachers can’t get enough of it, parents love seeing their kids on display, and – as I was told by my English teacher – out in the “real world,” it’s a multi-million dollar skill. Figures; all the things that are generally despised are good for you, like eating vegetables.
As much as I complain about it though, I’m not a bad public speaker, and that’s not because my speeches are particularly good or awe-inspiring but because, after years of observation, I’ve developed, what is termed “stage presence”. Of course, communicating worthwhile material is a fantastic idea but the way in which that material is communicated is, arguably, more important. If you can hold people’s attention for a longer period of time, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say, and that is the goal: to get people to listen to what you have to say.
So here’s how you do it:
- Realize that the audience hasn’t shown up to chuck tomatoes at you: There is no need to be afraid of the audience. They are there to listen to you and your ideas/views/opinions.
- Fake it till you make it: Walk on to the stage with confidence, even if you’d rather weep in a dark dingy corner. Look your audience in the eye and even try to smile before you begin speaking. The more confidence you exude, the more the audience will straighten their spines and become excited to hear what you have to say and hence, actually listen.
- Realize that you are a human being: What’s this? Dry lips, clammy hands, and a heart that’s probably accelerating at a pace that’s clearly not heathy? Good news! This proves that you are a human being and not a robot. Use this to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to employ hand gestures; don’t worry about stuttering every now and then; walk around a little bit; if you want to chuckle at a joke you’ve just made, even if the audience doesn’t, go for it! Make fun of yourself afterwards too if you like! This will help not only you loosen up and become more confident, but will establish you as a human being in front of the audience, not a robot: nobody wants to listen to an uptight, tight-lipped, monotonous droid. Would you?
- Tableaus are only cool in a play: Don’t freeze up if you forget a few words from your immaculately memorized speech. Turn it into a pause and make something up; no one will know as long as you say those words with confidence (remember: fake it till you make it). In fact, I’ve found, that it’s probably a good idea to not memorize your speech completely. Remember the key points and what you generally plan to say about them, but there’s no need to ingrain every single “and”, “therefore”, “you know what I’m saying?” in your brain: not doing so will give you a more natural speaking style thereby, establishing a more human presence on stage.
- Remember that you’re awesome: Refer to the above heading.