There is NO such thing as a natural born public speaker!
How many times have you sat through a piece of lackluster public speaking as an audience member? How many times have you been the public speaker with the same result? The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way – no one is BORN a public speaker.
The process of learning how to speak in public is exactly the same as any other learning process. It will happen in a natural way, as long as you’re willing to show courage and try something new. It’s never okay to use being “nervous” as an excuse to not try.
Nerves are completely normal in public speaking (we all get them, even professional speakers) and can be used to your benefit given the right parameters. Here are some key ways to NOT be that speaker everyone wishes would shut up already!
- Charisma – Many have a perception of charisma equaling “Something I’m not”, but that’s usually because you have a fixed idea of what charisma is. Surely charisma looks super confident, powerful, slick and funny, with a dazzling smile. Right? Public speaking charisma doesn’t mean being ‘in your face’ if that’s not your style. Your brand of public speaking charisma might look enigmatic, intellectual, sophisticated, enthusiastic, weird, sensual or something entirely different. Find your flavour.
- Be Aware – Look at the way your voice behaves when you speak in public. Once your volume’s not too loud and not too soft, but just right, you can start to use it as a tool for adding
drama and tension into what you say. The same goes for an awareness of your gaps, your intonation, your clarity, your energy and so on. Play with your voice and use it to create a story that engages your audience.
- Umm… like… your choice of words – Another way to master public speaking is to decrease the use of “fillers“. Filler words are utilized in general conversations to signal to the recipient that it’s NOT yet their turn to speak. Basically to keep the speaking stage in order to finish your intended message. While normal in conversations, you don’t need to signal to your audience that it’s “your turn to speak”. That’s why they’re there, to hear this amazing message you’re presenting. Too many “um’s” can cause you to seem less than professional, unprepared, or confused.
- Gravitas or having “weight” as a speaker, both literally and in the words that you say increases your public speaking skill exponentially. What springs to mind is the Sanskrit word Guru which actually means “heavy one” or one who cannot be pushed over. “You just couldn’t physically push him over because he’s so grounded, he has so much gravitas.” How do you find that sort of gravitas for yourself? Now that you know exactly what gravitas is… you can start by asking yourself a few questions.
Watch Your Attitude!
Winston Churchill said “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” It’s no big surprise that how you carry yourself whilst public speaking makes a tremendous impact on your audience.
- Have you ever experienced someone practically hiding at the corner of the stage during their speech or shuffling in with shoulders slouched and slumped?
- Audiences experience every nuance of a speaker… the way they look, walk, dress, and speak, within a split second of a speaker beginning. When you present yourself with an attitude of fear or discomfort it sets the rest of the stage for your entire presentation.
- Start with a negative attitude towards your speaking abilities and your whole being will show it by trying to hide (sometimes subtly, sometimes literally) from the audience. Even if you ‘put on a show’ your audience can often still tell subconsciously.
We understand very little about how we acquire creativity. Cognitive scientist Paul Thagard has created a list of habits that highly creative people employ, based on the habits of successful scientists. To get creative he advises:
- Make new connections: Don’t use the same old material to create your talk. Look for inner inspiration from a different field and use analogies/comparisons to link things together.
- Don’t be afraid to fail: If you’re always afraid of being wrong, you will severely inhibit your ability to try! Failure is a sign that you’re trying something new and pushing boundaries. We have to learn to fail WELL.
- Persistence: Give it a chance would ya? Give your new style a chance to be successful, even if it feels strange. (and in the beginning it WILL)
- Get excited!: Enthusiasm wins the day. Try looking at your topic through the eyes of a small child. What do you like about it? What thrills will your talk reveal?
- Be sociable: Creativity comes quickly when you’re surrounded by new influences, so look to other people for fresh ideas.
- Use what’s around you: There is inspiration everywhere, if you’re just open to it. Seek metaphors, analogies, stories, and humour from the world at large. Bring the richness of your experience into your public speaking.
If you maintain this zest for learning new public speaking techniques (from Ginger and beyond) you’ll not only be a competent public speaker but shine with brilliance. There is one major difference between those who excel at public speaking and those who… just don’t. It all depends on how much effort they're willing to put into it. When you push through those barriers, amazing things CAN happen. You too can be an extraordinary public speaker.