Fearless Public Speaking: Learning to Shine On Stage

As a solopreneur, many of us feel comfortable and even reasonably confident sharing our views with hundreds of people on social media. But take away the computer screen and thrust us out onto a stage in front of real live people, and the majority of solopreneurs come unstuck. Sweaty palms, dry mouth, fuzzy brain – sound familiar? Some of the most poised and articulate solopreneurs I know would rather swallow a furball than speak in public. As Jonathan Fields points out, our fear of public speaking trumps even our fear of dying.

For solopreneurs, speaking in front of a live audience is a fabulous way of creating fame – but here’s the big caveat – if we do it well. Great blog posts are read and forgotten about; great speakers stay with us for years. But average speakers? Well, average speakers can actually do their businesses a disservice by not representing themselves as the confident, successful entrepreneurs they really are.

Here are my top 7 tips to shine in front of a live audience and make the most of any public speaking opportunity.

Create content that captures your audience
Most people, no matter how committed they are to learning, have one question going through their minds while listening to a presentation. The question is ‘what’s in it for me?’; in other words, why should I be spending time away from work to listen to this stranger? To create great content you need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes – what problems are keeping them awake? What is exciting them? What would they pay $100 to hear more about? Shape your content around what is going to make your audience members sit up in their chairs and listen. Address their needs, never yours.

Engage in some armchair rehearsal
Did you know that the great Laurence Olivier used to walk on stage before almost every performance and announce to the empty auditorium, “You are about to see the best show you have seen in your entire lives and I will be delivering it. You lucky people”. Being not quite as famous as Laurence Olivier, most of us will need to say this to ourselves quietly before we step onto stage. An equally useful technique is to spend a few minutes each day before a presentation visualizing ourselves on stage looking, sounding and feeling confident. Works a charm.

Do the wall stand
If the audience cannot see you, just before your presentation stand up against a wall so your body is flat against it, then walk onto stage maintaining this posture. If you’re stepping from the audience straight onto stage, just imagine doing this. It’s amazing how it calms your nerves and centers your body (and, as a bonus, standing this way makes anyone look assured and at ease).

Nail your opening
Have your first minute learned off by heart. Don’t use any notes. Work in a joke – even a mild one – into the first three minutes to reveal a human side to the accomplished entrepreneur that is presenting.

Fall in love with your audience
Think back to how you communicated when you were falling in love. You maintained intense eye contact for long periods of time. You looked at your lover as if she or he was the most fascinating thing in the world. Do the same with your audience – look at each audience member in the eyes for at least 7 seconds, then move on to someone else. Look at each person with deep interest and respect. If the room is dark, just pretend!

Get comfortable using dot points only
The best speakers in the world do not read scripts. Push yourself to work off a skeleton structure (main headings and some dot points under each heading). It takes practice, so ask a few friends to listen to a dress rehearsal (ask for their feedback too).

Reframe your presentation as a chance to help people
One of the most useful things to remember is that no one will be thinking about you succeeding or failing. In fact, most people won’t be thinking about you at all. Your audience members are totally wrapped up in their own world and are just looking for some help or hope – this is something you can give them. Take the emphasis off yourself, and place it on making a difference in the lives of others.

As a motivated, accomplished solopreneur, what you have to say is of exceptional value. The trick is to know it, but then to remove the focus entirely off yourself and onto your audience. And the other trick? Over time, give yourself permission to have fun on stage. It’s a chance to show your entire, wonderful self to a roomful of people who you are going to help tremendously. What a privilege.

 

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Gemma MunroGemma Munro is an Australian coach and facilitator and the Director of Inkling Coaching. Gemma has a PhD in performance psychology and ten years' experience working with business leaders to maximise their performance and enjoyment at work. Gemma is known as a highly skilled and engaging public speaker. She has presented across the US, Britain and Europe, and has won several prizes for her speaking. Gemma is also a long-time performer, having toured internationally as a classical singer. She understands performance nerves, having experienced them first-hand, and she is deeply interested in helping others to get the fear out of the way and speak with joy, ease and success. She is running her Speakeasy course in Adelaide, Australia on June 18-19, 2012. Find her on Twitter @gemmamunro1.

Comments

  1. Great tips! I know that one of the things I want to do going forward, though it’s a fair ways down the road at this point, is get speaking gigs.
    Back when I used to work on political campaigns, I occasionally had to speak at a function in place of my candidate, if he/she was booked elsewhere. I once had to speak in front of a group of 350 successful women business owners, and I was terrified! The only thing that got me through was the repeated dress rehearsal I’d done beforehand, and knowing I only had about 3 minutes to make my candidate’s case. This is where the bullet points sure do come in handy! : )

    I love your advice to reframe the presentation as a chance to help people, that’s an awesome tip. It’s the same thing I’ve heard people say to do to relieve nervousness when you attend networking events — focus on the other person and ask questions of them, etc., and I know from experience this works!

  2. Thanks, Kimberley. You’re right – having a time limit really does make sure you only say the stuff that actually matters. And do you know what? I bet public speaking is not a ‘fair way down the road’ for you. I bet you’d be fabulous. Take a leaf out of Laura’s book and just do it!

  3. “…no one will be thinking about you succeeding or failing. In fact, most people won’t be thinking about you at all.” – So true… Thanks for great post.

  4. Great Blog Laura, please if you have time have a look at my Twitter business and leave a comment on my site, http://www.holdenlimited.co.uk/

    Thanks.