Do you feel anxious about speaking in front of a group of people? Ever been overcome with symptoms like sweaty palms, a dry mouth, shaky hands or redness on your neck before, or during, a presentation? Sounds like you’re one of the 4 in 10 of us who suffer from Glossophobia!
At the second virtual ‘Women in Food & Farming’ networking event, Sharon Kennett, a branding, marketing and communications professional, delivered a masterclass in how to speak publicly with confidence, beginning with a powerful story about how she spent 15 years being terrified of public speaking before making a speech at her sister’s wedding that literally changed her life.
Since this occasion, she has invested a lot of time in mastering the art and, in essence, it all comes down to preparation. Sharon splits this preparation into three elements: Content, Delivery and Mindset.
Ask yourself, who is in your audience? Why do they want to listen to you? What do you want them to think, feel and do? Being clear on these points will help you to craft a good speech. Think about creative ways to engage the audience, such as storytelling techniques and relatable examples. You don’t have to script your speech, but many people find it helpful to do so.
Everyone has their own individual style on stage, whether it’s standing completely still, almost miming with their hands or walking up and down. Find a way to make your quirks work for you – e.g. if you want to walk around, try to make sure you’re walking with purpose! Think about your body language, look just above somebody’s eyes if direct eye contact makes you more nervous and insert deliberate pauses into your script to slow yourself down. And, more importantly, practise!
You have the power to talk yourself into feeling positive or negative about anything, so use it! Remind yourself that you’ve been asked to speak so you already have credibility on the subject. This is your chance to own the stage and nobody is going to heckle! If you miss a bit out or get the order slightly wrong, will anybody notice? Unlikely. And finally, always remember that nobody in the audience wants you to fail.
As with most things, the more you do the better you will get, so the concluding advice from Sharon was to take any opportunities you are offered to speak in front of a group or even volunteer yourself at work. There are also hundreds of Toastmasters clubs across the UK, which are designed to give you access to regular opportunities to practise and gain tips for improving.
The virtual events are being kindly hosted on the Beanstalk.Global platform and the full recording will be available to watch shortly.
Click here to find out more about the ‘Women in Food & Farming’ network and how you can get involved in future events.