Speaking with confidence

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Since I overcame my fear of public speaking, I’ve received some compliments on my relaxed and natural speaking style. It still seems astonishing to me that anyone would want to know my “secrets” on speaking with confidence in public.  But when I think of all the hard work I have put into being successful at something that held the power of so much terror, I know it’s worth sharing.

Whether I am leading my umpteenth team meeting or pitching to a totally unknown audience, for me preparation is key.  The amount of preparation depends on the situation. What it comes down to is this.  If I need to deliver a specific set of information and make sure I am connecting with my audience, I need structure.

What’s your strategy?

The first thing I do is to map out a strategy.  What is the key information I need to share? What is the information I need from my audience? So, yeah, I’m a list maker and an outline kind of girl. For something like a recurring team meeting, I may only need two minutes to put my thoughts into order and be ready to go. But if I don’t take those two minutes to focus on what I want and need to accomplish in the meeting,, I’m never as effective or productive.  And often I walk away having missed an opportunity. My bet is the meeting attendees walk away with less of a feeling of time well spent as well.

Structure your content

If it’s a presentation, I go a lot deeper than that. I start with the bone structure of my content – ordering and prioritizing content at it’s simplest level and I build from there, step by step. It goes something like this :

  • List of content topics (bullets)

  • Order/prioritize the content (outline)

  • Expand the content (sentences/paragraphs)

  • Script it – word for word ideally what would I say

  • Timed test run(s) using the script

  • Create crib notes

  • Timed test run(s) using crib notes

Scripting and rehearsing

This structure works for me whether or not I created the content myself. It is doubly, triply critical for me personally if I am pitching someone else’s content/charts.  For my optimal comfort level, I need to script in my voice / in my own words.  When I don’t find the words that I am comfortable with, I bumble and stumble.

I recently read a blog about perfecting presentations which explained the hundreds of hours of preparation that went into Steve Jobs’ launch presentations.  I don’t go that far (but then again, if I was making a pitch that was that important to that many people, maybe I would).

Keep doing it – it get’s better

If I had to summarize how I got, over the years, from freezing and bumbling and sweating and shaking and voice trembling to where I am at today, it all comes down to hard work, every time.