How to speak in front of a room full of strangers
Professional public speaker Suzannah Baum shows us how to overcome the very legit panic that comes with addressing a group.
PUT YOUR AUDIENCE FIRST. Instead of focusing on how short you can make your speech so you don’t sweat through your silk blouse, ask yourself what your audience needs to hear in order to make your words meaningful to them. (Example: If you’re talking to Millennials about social media, find commonalities instead of relying on the “When I was your age” shtick.) This takes the pressure off you, says Baum, because the audience will be more engaged. Also, don’t wear a silk blouse.
DRESS REHEARSE LIKE YOU’RE ON BROADWAY. Your worst jitters typically come from not feeling prepared. Ergo, practise. A LOT. Use your iPhone to record (either with audio or visually) yourself saying your speech and then listen to or watch it. “You’ll be more objective when you hear it from this outside perspective,” says Baum. “Then you can go back and tweak the content into something stronger.”
DON’T FRET IF YOU STUMBLE. If you tear up during your eulogy for your grandmother or lose your place during your maid-of-honour speech, don’t apologize. Pause, take a sip of water and power on.
STOP WITH THE SHUFFLING. Too much movement is distracting to the audience. If you are a trembler, don’t hold a pen or papers. Slides can help distract them from your shaking hands. (They also appeal to the visual learners in your audience.)
THE FIRST MINUTE WILL BE THE HARDEST. After that, your brain takes over.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of ELLE Canada.