Public speaking doesn't come naturally to most people. The thought of putting forward an opinion or presentation to a large room of people, with several hundred pairs of eyes and ears trained on what you say is daunting. What if you say the wrong thing? Do they just en masse pick you up and toss you into a wickerman? (That would be a tough crowd!)
I've spoken at a number of events now from a handful of people up to a few hundred. The current feeling I have is a little adrenalin but no real fear. I channel the nervous energy into my 'performance' and enjoy it.
The key to successful presentations is good preparation of materials and rehearsing your talk once or twice before delivering the material for the first time. (As you become more experienced then ad hoc speaking becomes easier).
So, how do you get to the stage of actually enjoying your public speaking? Practice makes perfect, but believe it or not Karaoke can help a lot.
You have that sceptical look on your face, so let me explain further.
The main thing to conquer when you speak in front of a group is the fear of doing so. You can work on reducing the anxiety at your presentation, or ideally you can get it out of the way at another venue beforehand. The only thing people are scared of doing more than speaking to a crowd of strangers is singing in front of them. This is where karaoke comes in. :)
Gather some friends, and head down to your local open mike karaoke place (which exist in every city as far as I can tell!). Sing something you like but also exercise a little judgement about what your range is. (Most people can't sing Celine Dion, but they try to, that's where the pain starts for other customers). :)
This is where one of the advantages of a social venue kick in. You're surrounding by your friends, and there's support and approval there. If it helps your initial nerves you can have a drink to sooth them.
(Which is something you should never do when you are public
speaking on professional topics - otherwise your presentation
could degenerate into a lot of finger pointing while you slur
"and I'll tell you another thing about SharePoint!!").
The more you sing, the muscles in your throat get toned and your voice gets better. This helps your public speaking because you gain more control over your voice, and have a little more volume when there's no microphone.
After a few sessions, your nerves regarding being the center of attention for short periods should diminish. Your presentations will seem less daunting, and frankly the more you relax the better you come across.
There is more to grasp to be a really good public speaker (and by the way I'm not making any such claim myself!). One great way to advance your skills is to attend Toastmasters International meetings. Here you can practice and gain insights from professional speakers. There are as many chapters of the Toastmasters as there are karaoke venues! Check out their website here for a group local to you; Toastmasters Website.
If you're anywhere near Western Switzerland and want to try your hand at public speaking I'm always looking for people to present at my SharePoint User Group in Geneva (SUGCH Site Here). Contact me via that site or via the link at the top of this blog if you'd like to discuss that.
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