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?

Sandy Donovan is sharing about how you can go from a less to a fearless speaker with us and her first part is already live, you can read it here. This is PART II of III in her guest post series.

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Part II: How to get quick wins from the stage

It’s kind of ironic that we learn to talk somewhere before our second birthday, we do it every single day of our lives, yet, put us on stage and ask us to put some words together, and many of us panic.

It’s natural, but it isn’t.

I’m a big fan of solid content for your presentation. It’s a must. In part 1 of this series, I gave you some quick and easy tips for focusing that content and constructing it in a way that makes sense to your audience. Before you go any further, check it out here.

I believe that having a strong message, and organizing all of your material in a way that is easy to remember and easy for the audience to absorb really is the key to success for any presentation. But, delivery is important too.

What’s the key to delivery? Getting out of your own way and just letting your personality shine through.

As true as that advice is, it isn’t very useful.

In the beginning, you won’t be able to get out of your own way. In fact, you’ll be tripping all over yourself (figuratively, we hope).

The best way to improve your stage presence is to practice. Once you feel comfortable, your natural personality will shine through and you’ll easily establish trust with the audience and draw them into your stories and overall messages.

But, until then, you can use some of these tips to get quick wins (which will snowball into increased confidence, and get you to the end goal – a natural and relaxed delivery- faster).

In this post, we’ll cover two things you can do that will dramatically improve your presentation, even if you’re not 100% comfortable on stage yet

Nail your opener

The quickest way to both build your confidence AND build the relationship between you and your audience is to nail your opener. Having a strong intro requires a little prep work. I recommend following a formula. It goes like this:

  1. Get their attention with a story or example.
  2. Lay out your promise statement (the one thing they’ll know, believe or do when you’re done – you should have written this already if you read part 1).
  3. Build credibility (both trust and competence).
  4. Tell them what you’re going to talk about (the preview of your main points – you should have this already from part 1)

Now that you know what you’ll include in your intro, I recommend practicing it until you’re sick of it. As close as you can come to memorizing it, do that. Visualize not only the words, but how you will say them. What you’ll do with your hands as you say them, your body, your eyes, your face… everything. Visualize presenting to your audience and what that looks like, what that feels like.

I would never recommend memorizing an entire presentation, but the opener is just a small portion of your speech. And it is so important to get right. You want to feel 100% comfortable while you’re delivering it. Once you get through that part, you’ll be in the zone and you’ll kind of just get out of your own way as you deliver the rest of the presentation. The rest can flow easily and, as long as you have a solid foundation (as we discussed in the first part of this series), small mistakes won’t matter as much. You’ll already have them hooked, and have their trust, and therefore their forgiveness, because of your opener.

Beyond visualizing, give yourself ample time to rehearse out loud. You might feel silly talking to yourself in your living room, but you’ll catch things that you won’t catch by just thinking about your speech, or even by reading through your speech.

When we’re not actually saying the words, our minds tend to skip over parts that we don’t know so well. When you’re speaking out loud, you have no choice but to face the parts that don’t flow, that sound bad, or that you don’t know well enough – head on. You have to confront those issues and deal with them. Don’t wait until you’re on stage to find out there is an issue that needs your attention.

Do this: Write out your intro, exactly the way you plan to say it (don’t worry about using proper English – just write the way it sounds best – like you would text a buddy). Then, practice until you can’t stand the practice again.

Wear your emotions on your sleeve

If you’ve ever heard a really good speech, you know that it’s often more about how you felt during the experience than what was actually said that made the difference. Emotion is a big part of your message. If you want the audience to take action, or to change their mind on a subject, emotion is usually what will make the difference (not necessarily your logic).

Yet, this is really tough for new speakers. Mostly because, if you want the audience to feel something, they’ll have to see that emotion first in you.

And, if you’re at all nervous, you’re going to be conveying that emotion – nerves, fear, anxiety, hesitation – as opposed to the emotion that you want your audience to feel – which might be completely different – maybe sadness, pity, excitement, joy, etc. They will mirror the emotions they see. Make sure you provide the right emotion to mirror.

This will come easier to you as you gain more experience on stage, but for now, we can use a kind of band-aid, or work-around, to make sure you are conveying the right emotion at the right time, and therefore, provoking that emotion in your audience.

Do this: Start by picking out just one or two stories within your speech. For each story you want to work on, identify the emotion that you want your audience to feel when they’re hearing that story. I like to actually write the emotion in the margins of my outline. I like visual reminders.

Now for the tricky part – determine how you naturally look, act and sound like when you feel that emotion.

When I’m working with a client, I’ll often record our initial call together – our discovery call – where we brainstorm content for the speech and pick out what’s going to go into the talk. If a client is having trouble acting natural on stage, I can pull up that video and show them what they looked like when they were first telling me that story. It is often vastly different than what it looks like when they’re rehearsing their presentation. We’re aiming for natural. We want the emotions to come through like they would if you were talking to a friend.

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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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Want to learn more about how to become better at public speaking?

Want to create and deliver talks that will have the impact you imagined and give you the standing ovations your deserve?

I’m the host of the virtual summit, Speak On Stage Summit, where I’ve interviewed experts and professional speakers on how you can create and deliver your talks on stage (even if you have ZERO experience).

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  • What kind of stories to use and when
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