Whether we’re talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time.
We can do this well or we can do this badly, and the outcome strongly affects the way that people think about us. This is why public speaking causes so much anxiety and concern.
The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well.
The key to being a truly successful public speaker is to get in the performance mindset, and stay there throughout your speech. Great public speaking is worlds apart from someone standing on stage and reading from a manuscript, a research paper, or PowerPoint slides. In other words, it’s organic. You may not equate this with the last business or academic conference you attended. But a speaker’s job is to take an audience on a journey, while engaging them perhaps even exciting them intellectually and emotionally.
Sure, you need strong platform skills to do this. But first you, as speaker, have to create the right environment. Audiences take away what they see and hear, and their responses don’t emerge mysteriously they will react in direct proportion to what you give them. If you have a tendency to depend upon your content alone to create the influence you’re looking for, then you don’t understand the public speaking dynamic.
Your role is to be as much of a performer as an actor is; and truly, it’s the role of a lifetime. You have five key tools at your command to give a great performance: your eye contact (and facial expressions), voice, body language, using the stage itself for drama and effect, and connecting with the audience.
How to Connect with Audiences for Stage Presence
Here too, your mind needs to be in the right place.
It’s meant to indicate the narcissism that can be a major factor in stage fright. Though we may not generally be egotists, some of us place ourselves at the center of the speaking ‘universe,’ paying more attention to how we’re feeling than about who truly matters: the audience. They should be the ones represented by the sun in this picture.
Once you understand that, you can give all of your focus and attention to the listeners paying close attention to whether they get it. As I said above, whether both of those outcomes take place depends directly on how much effort you put into the attempt.
Here’s the good news about all of this: connecting with an audience is a simple process though it’s not always easy. It really requires just one thing: your willingness to be present for your listeners. Yes, you must have faith in your ability to talk on your subject. But isn’t that why you are the one giving this speech? Anxious and defensive speakers over-prepare in the hope that ‘nothing can go wrong’ if they memorize every nook and cranny of their topic. But wouldn’t you rather just share your knowledge and passion with people who are as interested in the topic as you are? Your audience is certainly hoping you do.