Do you dread public speaking? 10 ways to improve your performance.

If you run your own business there is usually no better advocate of your company than you. But for many, paralysing fear about having to stand up and speak about your business, whether at a networking event, conference or client presentation can mean it is avoided like the plague and when forced to perform, you don’t do yourself or your business justice.

You have two options – you can try and avoid all situations where you may have to speak in public, but you would be missing valuable opportunities to promote your business; or you can look for ways to increase you confidence and your performance.

So here are a few tips from someone who has learned to ‘enjoy’ public speaking.

1)  Don’t forget you are speaking about what you know

No one knows our business like you do. You are likely to have an in-depth knowledge of your sector so take confidence and courage from that.

2) Speak with passion

You may think great public speaking is all about learning tricks and techniques but most audiences connect with you when they can sense the passion and this cannot be faked or learnt. So don’t supress your emotions because you thinks you should be delivering a ‘slick’ presentation, let your drive and passion show and people will respond to it.

3) Be likeable

Most people prefer to listen to someone they like, so simple things like remembering to smile and making eye-contact with people can make the world of difference. Nothing boosts your confidence more than when you feel you are speaking to a positive audience who is interested in what you are saying

3) Less is more

It is often harder to be brief but it is essential if you are going to keep the audience’s attention, so be clear, concise and don’t waffle on.

4) Prepare

It amazes me at how many people who don’t like public speaking fail to think about what they are going to say beforehand. Only the most experienced can ‘wing it’ so don’t give yourself added pressure and prepare. Remember how much worse going into an exam was if you hadn’t revised? The same goes for public speaking.

5) Practice

Part of being prepared is practicing so it may be scary but try and grab every opportunity to stand up and speak. Often attending networking events gives you this opportunity for a short 30 second or so introduction, and at least you know everyone else is in the same boat.

6) Think about your visual aids

It doesn’t have to be Powerpoint, but sometimes showing something visual to support your talk can really help. It might be pictures you can talk around, samples, a demo or just some key words. DO NOT ever have your script on Powerpoint slides and just read out. Your viewers can read faster than you can talk so it ends up feeling like your presentation is dragging when they have read the slide and you’re only on the second bullet point.

7) Don’t be afraid to be personal

Using ‘I’ can be very powerful and help you connect with your audience. Don’t be afraid to add in something personal or anecdotal, it makes you more human, interesting and likeable (see point 3)

8) Fake it

You may never love public speaking but it is amazing how many people you can fool by faking confidence. Inside you may be a quivering wreck but put on a calm and confident front and no one will be the wiser!

9) Don’t give up

If your first attempts don’t go as well as you hoped, don’t be deterred. Firstly, you were probably a lot better than you thought (we are always our own worst critics) and secondly, practice makes perfect. The more you do, the more you will find that it becomes less scary every time.

10) Adrenaline can be your friend

Few people lose all nerves, in fact having that adrenaline rush just before you stand up can be a great boost to your performance. So don’t worry and go with it. Think of it as a performance-enhancing drug, after all that’s what adrenaline is.