Empty Stage III

It’s a fact. Fear of public speaking ranks above fear of death. Yes, most people would rather die than speak in public!

But what if your job depends upon your ability to give a presentation? The good news is that fear doesn’t have to become a barrier to your success.

Long before my career took me into auditoriums to motivate 100,000 high school students to achieve more, I was a high school student who found myself in a speech competition. Before I delivered it, I had discovered something important – It wasn’t about me. It was about this gift (the message) I was giving to the audience.

Just as you shop for the perfect present for that special someone, wrap it in paper, and top it with a bow – so goes your speech. It’s your gift to everyone in the room.

Seeing it from this view will allow you take the focus off of yourself. That’s the first step to becoming a confident speaker. Like an escalator, the steps that follow will move you forward in the process:

Be the expert. Know your subject inside out and upside down.

Be purposeful. Is your goal to educate, to inspire, or to affect change? Every word you write should match what you hope to achieve.

Be busy practicing. Know your speech. Once it’s written just the way you want it, practice and bring it to life. Recruit family and friends to be your audience and check out opportunities to share your talk with community organizations like Rotary.

Be positive. Smile and the audience will smile back at you. Your sincere and positive tone will inspire them to want to hear every word you say.

Be passionate. The speech in your head should come through your heart. If you can do this, you will energize the room.

Be engaging. Walk away from the podium, if you can. Having a wireless microphone will give you the freedom to move around the stage or the room. Make eye contact with members of the audience and interact with them by posing questions or having an activity that invites participation.

Be visual. Props, video, and music are among the great tools that can add dimension to your message. If you must use PowerPoint, keep the text minimal to prevent it from doing all of the talking.  And like the lights at the recent Super Bowl game, be prepared to go on even if any of these don’t. The most important visual will always be you.

Be conversational. Your talk is a journey. Every sentence is another step in the adventure. So instead of spending a lot of time telling the audience what you’re going to say, just go ahead and say it. Tell stories. And be sure to inflect, pause, and project your voice along the way.

Be confident. Go in there dressed for success. And remember that you are in command of the audience’s attention. If you believe it, they will too.

Your speech is your gift. Wrap it in confidence and with joyful anticipation, boldly give it!

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