It always makes me laugh when someone points out that public speaking is rated as the number one fear… with death as the runner up.
Think about that. People are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death.
“Can you tell us about what it is that you love?” someone asks.
“Why, of course! Right after I inject a lethal dose of morphine into my veins. One moment, please.”
The whole gambit is silly. And yet, I totally understand. Every time I get up to talk, I’m nervous.
Why are you and I so afraid of standing in front of a crowd and talking about what we love, know, and experience?
We’re just humans, after all. Surely, our caveman and cavewoman counterparts weren’t nervous about telling their tribe stories of the stars, trees, and their newest invention.
But us? We tremble, vomit, sweat, and even prefer death over the prospect of speaking publicly.
And if you think that you’re helpless against that fear — that you will never and can never overcome your fear of public speaking — you’re dead wrong (you’d prefer to be dead anyways, right?).
But maybe you’re here just because you want to improve your public speaking skills.
Perfect in both cases.
Here’s 9 secrets of all those freaky-calm people who walk onto a stage like they own it — thank you Carmine Gallo…
1. Be Passionate.
I’ve watched one-too many speeches where the speaker is dreadfully boring.
You know what I mean?
They don’t move their hands, they read from their damn notes, and their voice has the embellishment of a corpse.
These people don’t inspire the hoped for response.
So this tip is simple but absolutely critical.
Be passionate about your topic — if you’re not, don’t even talk because no one cares. If that seems harsh, I’m sorry. It’s true.
How do you unleash passion when you’re afraid of looking silly, you feel sick to your stomach, and you want nothing but for the speech to be over?
Well, ironically, passion is the cure.
The more passionate you are, the less sick you’ll feel because you understand the weight of what you have to say. You’ll also be more confident because, well, you give a shit.
If you don’t give a shit about what you are going to speak about, do us all a favor and get the hell off the stage.
“You cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself. You stand a much greater chance of persuading and inspiring your listeners if you express an enthusiastic, passionate, and meaningful connection to your topic.”
2. Tell Good Stories.
Have you ever suffered at the lips of a bad storyteller?
Of course you have.
We all have.
It’s the worst.
You react, not because their story was good but because the you-had-to-be-there ending is pitiful.
If used correctly, stories are incredibly powerful during a speech. They draw in attention, lighten the mood (or deepen the mood depending), and build trust.
But how do you know if you have a story worth telling?
How do you avoid becoming the lame storyteller we all fear?
Simple. Choose a relevant story, tell it to an honest friend, and ask their opinion not just on the story itself, but on how it was told. Is there a better way to order the events? Should the information be revealed at a different pace?
Believe it or not, storytelling is a skill. And like any skill, mastering it is simply a matter of practice.
“Great speakers are indeed mavericks, adventurers, and rule-bending rebels who take risks. They tell stories to express their passion for the subject and to connect with their audiences. Ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century and stories facilitate the exchange of that currency. Stories illustrate, illuminate, and inspire.”
3. Fake It Till You Become It.
Has someone ever tried to console you by saying, “Just get up there a fake it. No one can tell.”
Yes? They have?
Well, they lied.
We can tell.
You’ve seen overly enthusiastic speakers who just seem like they’re trying too hard. You even try to buy into what they’re saying, but the seeming lack of authenticity keeps eating away at you.
Here’s my advice (or rather, Carmine Gallo’s): Don’t fake it when you step onto that stage. Fake it in front of the mirror, in your bedroom, and in front of close friends, far before you ever walk onto a stage.
What do I mean?
When you practice your speech (you practice, right?), fake it hard. Imagine the kind of speech you want to deliver and, in the privacy of your own home, go all in.
Do this over and over again until you actually become the person you’re pretending to be. Then, once you’re on the stage, you won’t be faking it. You’ve simply become that person.
“True persuasion occurs only after you have built an emotional rapport with your listeners and have gained their trust. If your voice, gestures, and body language are incongruent with your words, your listeners will distrust your message. It’s the equivalent of having a Ferrari (a magnificent story) without knowing how to drive (delivery).”
4. Be Original.
This one is simple. So I’m not going to belabor it.
Tell your audience something they don’t already know. Few things are worse than listening to a speaker who’s not only telling you information you’re already familiar with, but they’re even using clichés and over-used explanations to talk about it.
And if you can’t tell your audience something new, at least explain an old concept in a new and unusual way.
At the end of the day, people don’t care about what you have to say unless it’s original information or presented in an original way.
If you don’t have something to say, leave your audience alone.
“The human brain loves novelty. An unfamiliar, unusual, or unexpected element in a presentation intrigues the audience, jolts them out of their preconceived notions, and quickly gives them a new way of looking at the world.”
5. Shock Your Audience.
Everyone loves a good surprise.
When Bill Gates presented his TED talk in 2009, at one point, he opened a jar, saying, “Malaria is spread by mosquitos. I brought some here. I’ll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected.”
That moment went crazy all over the internet. Gates used humor to express a serious point about Malaria.
But that humor made his point memorable and impactful.
Strategically structure your speech so that your audience experiences shock and awe. Think about telling a funny story that leads into a serious point.
Get them smiling and then make them cry.
“Every performer has at least one jaw-dropping moment — an emotionally charged event that your audience members will be talking about the next day. Every presentation needs one. Get one and use it. Your presentation content will make a better impact if it can be stamped onto the minds of your listeners.”
6. Have Fun.
I know. The last thing you’re thinking about when you get on that stage is having fun.
You’re not here to have fun. You’re here to get it over with. Right?
If you’re speaking to a crowd, that means you’ve been given an awesome opportunity to impact the lives of other people. They’re here because they want to listen.
So have fun with it.
If you have fun, your listeners will have fun.
But still, easier said than done.
Which is why you need to plan for humor in your speech (so long as it is actually funny). Humor will lighten the mood in the room and bond your listeners with your message.
Include a few well-placed and appropriate jokes for your audience and the whole experience will be a whole lot more enjoyable.
Note: Sometimes, people don’t laugh. You get a tough crowd. If they don’t, no worries. Simply continue the speech in the same way you would. They’ll forget about the dud quickly. I promise.
“Humor lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message. It also makes you seem more likable, and people are more willing to do business with or support someone they like.”
7. Keep It Short.
Have you ever wondered if you should stop talking? Maybe you spoke on the same point for too long or not long enough.
We all hate a broken record.
What if there was a secret amount of time for any speech? What if I could give you a number of minutes that you should speak for and because of that time span, you would have your audiences attention the whole time?
That would be awesome, right?
Here’s that number, straight from the science and genius of Carmine Gallo’s book:
The challenge with such a short amount of time is including everything that you feel you need to say. This short time period forces you to narrow the speech to its necessary components.
Besides, you’d far rather leave your audience wanting more than wanting less.
“Researchers have discovered that ‘cognitive backlog,’ too much information, prevents the successful transmission of ideas.”
Practically every TED talk ever 😉
8. Stimulate The Senses.
Once, in my full-time ministry days, I preached a sermon on development and self-help.
With me, I brought a jar full of soil. During the speech, I planted a seed and even watered the soil.
But the audience loved it. It illustrated the point I was striving to make, that you can’t become a better person unless you put in the care necessary.
Speakers often are nervous to bring anything other than their voices and a boring-as-hell powerpoint.
Bring something that will surprise people and make them curious about how you’re going to use it.
The item will create interest and serve as a constant reminder of your topic.
Plus, people will remember your speech for years to come.
“Remember, the brain does not pay attention to boring things. It’s nearly impossible to be bored if you’re exposed to mesmerizing images, captivating videos, intriguing props, beautiful words, and more than one voice bringing the story to life.”
9. Be Yourself… Not Someone Else.
Yeah, yeah. At first glance, that subtitle seems cliché as hell.
And at the cost of losing your interest, it is a little cliché. But here’s the deal. Don’t watch one of these TED talks and try to emulate the way they present. People are most intrigued when they listen to someone who is comfortable in their own skin.
We all have unique experiences and a unique way of communicating. Your individuality is your best weapon against boring your listeners.
Stick to your lane and don’t veer from it. Some people will love you for it and others will hate you for it.
But at least they’ll be forming an opinion about you — the real you.
“Most people can spot a phony. If you try to be something or someone you’re not, you’ll fail to gain the trust of your audience.”
Practice like crazy…
Overcoming your fear of public speaking is difficult. It’s simply a matter of doing it again and again until your mind realizes, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.”
So keep practicing. And when you doubt yourself, work on your speech more before delivering it and that will automatically increase your confidence.