Last year, I was asked to give a presentation. I was totally intimidated before I took the stage, and the week prior I had wanted to call the group organizing the event and cancel, telling them that my kids needed me, my husband needed me, anything to get me out of having to head out of town to speak before what was going to be the biggest audience I'd seen.
But I leaned into it.
Because I have learned over the last several years that when fear hits, that is exactly where you should probably be, because it is leaning into that fear, inspired by love, that you will grow.
And so rather than quit, I practiced. I couldn't screw up the words, it was my story, we had lived every moment of it. So I set the timer in the kitchen on the microwave oven for 18 minutes - the time I'd been allotted for the talk - and I practiced.
And when the morning of the presentation came, I said a little prayer, "Let my heart speak" and took the stage. And in doing so, let love conquer fear.
So when I recently read an article about ten tips you can take to be an effective public speaker, I laughed. It was about 365 days too late.
I got some of it right, some of it wrong, but in the end, I did something. And I invite you to do the same. Dare to find your voice, to change the dialogue, to start a conversation, to believe in your ability to affect change, because what you may realize is that it will inspire others to do the same.
Since it's never too late to get started, here is a list of the Top Ten Secrets of Today's Most Successful Speakers:
1. Research — Prepare carefully by doing your research before you even attempt to write your speech. Who is your audience? What are your “take aways” — the most important things you want them to walk away having learned from you? The more you know about your audience as well as your subject, the more confident you’ll feel when you are in front of them.
2. Make clear notes — Write down your entire speech, then pick out the main areas you’ve covered. Jot them down as bullet-points, words or phrases on 3″ X 5″ cards to prompt you during your speech. Use different colors to separate your points, in case you lose your place or work them into your PowerPoint presentation.
3. Practice thoroughly — Practice giving your talk into a recorder and use a timer to watch your minute marks. Surprisingly, having a recorder running puts pressure on you to know your material. From here, you can graduate to practicing in front of others. Practice using tools such as your PowerPoint clicker or laser pointer.
4. Visit the venue beforehand — Make an advance visit to where you’ll be speaking, even if you can only do this an hour beforehand. Stand exactly where you will be giving your speech to get a feel for the space. Also, ensure you get a sound check beforehand if there is a sound engineer provided for you.
5. Dress to stand out from the audience — If the backdrop is dark on stage, make sure you wear light colors. If the backdrop is light on stage, wear a contrasting color or darker shade. Never wear black on top, although black pants with a light or colored top works well. If you wear a dress, pick one with a belt, so you can clip the wireless mic transmitter to it! (Otherwise, in a pinch, I have clipped my mic pack to my bra strap.)
6. Breathe deeply – Take deep breaths before you go on stage. A minute or so of calm, deep breaths will slow your heart rate, increase your oxygen levels, and ground you nicely to give a calm, confident performance.
7. Think positively — If you’ve rehearsed and prepared adequately, there is no reason not to believe in yourself. Visualize no other outcome but being a raging success. Think how much the audience will like you, and how good you will feel after you’ve done it!
8. Don’t rush — Speak slowly to ensure you don’t trip over your words, and don’t rush to finish points. Ideally, set timings in your speech notes, so you know if you are going too fast or too slowly as you go along. Timing checks in your notes will help you sail along at a comfortable, relaxed speed.
9. Show your passion! — Feed off the passion you have for your subject. This will engage your audience’s attention. Let your voice get louder for some points and softer for others; have some variance in your presentation as far as your sound dynamics.
10. Be yourself and have fun – Audiences may forget what you say, but they will remember what you make them feel. And no one will know that you “messed up” but you. So go for it!
These tips were excerpted from the website of self-made entrepreneur and Inc. 500-ranked CEO Ali Brown who teaches women around the world how to start and grow profitable businesses that make a positive impact. Get her FREE weekly articles and advice at www.AliBrown.com.