Do you want to become a better public speaker?

Do you want to let go of the fear and be yourself while you are up on stage?

This is PART I of III in a guest post series by Sandy Donovan, about how you can go from a less to a fearless speaker.

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Part I: Two secrets you need to know BEFORE you think about presenting a speech

“I’m not afraid of public speaking, I just don’t want to look dumb/make a fool of myself.”

I hear some form of that statement almost every time I speak with a new, or a potential client. I work with business owners, coaches, and entrepreneurs of some sort (at least entrepreneurial in spirit). Most of these people aren’t afraid to put themselves and their ideas out there, or, they’ve learned how to deal with that fear already.

But the stage though…

For lots of people, this is a completely different realm. And there’s a lot at stake. You’re no longer in high school, presenting your science project (which is most people’s only experience with public speaking). Now, you’re on stage in front of potential clients, conference leaders, and other people who hold the key to your success. And this speech needs to count.

We all know that we want to do our best when we present. The problem is that most people have no idea where to start.

The bottom line is, you’ll have to practice this to get REALLY good. But, you can make quick and noticeable differences that will make you feel comfortable and confident on stage, and will put your audience at ease so you can effectively deliver your message.

In part 1 of this three part series, I’ll give you two secrets that you need to know before you even think about getting on stage.

Then, in part two, I’ll give you quick tips that you can implement right away to get big wins on stage, the very next time you speak.

Finally, in part three, I’ll fill you in on some of the finer details to consider to really polish up your presentation.

Let’s get started by looking at some overlooked, but important aspects of creating a speech – I call these secrets because too many people completely overlook these steps and jump ahead to the more glamorous aspects of speech. But, without this foundation, no matter how pretty your slides are, or how charismatic you may be, your message will fall flat.

Let’s jump in.

Secret 1: It’s all about the content

Forget the slides. Forget your delivery (for now). None of that matters if you don’t have solid content. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Of course I have content, I’m an expert in _______, that’s why I was asked to speak!”

As true as this is, it is often more of a curse than a blessing. Incredibly passionate, knowledgeable and caring experts often want to give way too much info, or completely over estimate what their audience can understand and take in during their speech.

The first thing you need to do is narrow down your content to something manageable, then narrow it down again. Here’s what I do, and what I have all of my clients do.

Do this: In one, full, declarative sentence, write out what the audience will either (pick one) know, believe or do by the time they’re done hearing your speech.

This now becomes your compass. If a story, idea, example, fact, stat, definition, testimony, or whatever helps the audience get to that goal, great, keep it. If not? Toss it. Be ruthless. Get rid of everything that doesn’t make the cut.

Secret 2: The wording matters

Many people are afraid to commit to specific words during their speech because they are afraid they won’t remember those words, or that they’ll sound robotic trying to recite a script. This is true to some extent, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still know (and know very well) what the ideal way to present your points are.

Reading your script from on stage isn’t a good idea, but that doesn’t mean that the opposite – winging it – is best. The ideal scenario is something in the middle. You want a conversational feel, and ironically, the best way to get that conversational feel is to plan a whole lot.

Do this: After I have my clients define the one thing they want their audience to know, believe or do, I have them come up with their 2-5 main points that will help them move the audience closer to that goal. Again, we want to write out these points in full, declarative sentences. Carefully consider the choice of words. Select words that the audience is instantly familiar with, words that are clear, and words that we can use throughout your speech to reinforce points over and over again. These words are important. How you make these points are important. Don’t wing it.

I realize that these probably aren’t the tips you were expecting to hear when talking about public speaking. But the truth is, as with most other things in life, having a strong foundation is a must. Having a clear vision of what your message is and what the pillars of that message are will drastically improve the quality of your presentation. Your audience will have a clearer picture of what exactly you’re saying and what they’re supposed to do with the information.

To review:

  1. Create the one sentence that describes what your audience will know, believe or do by the time you’re done speaking.
  2. Create 2-5 full, declarative sentences for your main points that support the goal you’ve outlined in step 1.

In part two of this three part series, we’ll talk about where you can focus your energy to get quick wins and make dramatic improvements to your speech so that you can feel comfortable and make a huge impact every single time that you take the stage.

Your turn

How do you prepare for a presentation? What’s your first step to guarantee you’re off to the best start? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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Sandy Donovan is a former public speaking instructor turned presentation coach for small business owners who struggle with sales and presentations. Through her weekly podcast, quick-action challenges and no-nonsense classes, she’s here to teach you how to get powerful results, every time you take the stage. And when she’s not teaching, you’ll find her playing with her preschooler, rocking to Aerosmith or geeking out on the latest communication research.

Meet Sandy and get ready to fall in love with taking the stage at Clearlyinfluential

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Do you want to grow your business with public speaking?

Want to have more impact while standing on stage and sharing your message?

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