Do you crumble under pressure?
Getting up to speak in front of a large group of people is a big fear for many. Even the thought of it can see beads of sweat breaking out on foreheads; it probably doesn’t help that most of us started our public speaking careers in classrooms full of children, ready to laugh at any small mistake or slip of the tongue.
Despite so many people being afraid of public speaking, there are those among us who manage to keep a cool head under pressure and even thrive when the stakes are high. Take many politicians, for example, they often face demanding media representatives and frustrated members of the public but they still manage to keep calm and present their information (even if that information is not always well-received). So, how do they do it?
Have all the information on hand
Note that this tip does not say ‘give all the information’. Knowing every detail means that you will be able to answer questions if needed, without scrambling with uncertainty or looking to other people for the answers.
Think about the hardest questions you might be asked and make sure you have the appropriate information to share in those cases. This way, you’re not caught off guard. Brainstorm this with others if you are in a position to; different perspectives are invaluable. Also think about what you would want to know if you were in your audience’s shoes, a little empathy in providing relevant information won’t go astray!
Get in control of your body language
There is a myth out there that body language is 93% of communication. It’s not, but your audience will evaluate most of the emotional content of your message based on your body language. Shifty eyes, sweating or fidgeting are all letting your audience know that you’re nervous — how do they know if they can trust what you’re saying if you don’t seem to even know what you’re saying at all?
Many of us have nervous body language that can seem out of our control but a simple change of environment can help. Perhaps you tend to sweat when you’re nervous, if you can control where you are speaking, doing so in a room with plenty of air conditioning can keep it to a minimum.
Think rationally and objectively
It’s easier said than done, but thinking in terms of the facts and figures, rather than the emotional side of things can help you to stay objective. Redundancies, budget cuts or poor performance discussions are all difficult for any team and when asked to speak publicly on any of these topics, it can be difficult to separate the facts from the emotion. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news but it’s important to remain objective — with a healthy dose of empathy — to deliver it. After all, if there are changes happening, they’re affecting your team, so they’re affecting you too — it’s not always easy to stay impartial.
Practice, practice, practice
Panic at the thought of public speaking is normal but like with most things, the more you do it, the better you get at it. It’s not enough to wait around for an opportunity to speak in front of a group of people. Practice strategies for calming your nerves, take notes when you see other leaders deliver information in a calm manner and create mock speeches for yourself. It might seem silly, but when the time comes for you to be under pressure, standing in front of a group of people, you’ll feel calmer and in control and ready to do the job at hand.
If you’re ready to start speaking with confidence so you can lead your team towards success, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.