by Meghan Keneally
Do your palms get sweaty when you get up to speak in front of a large group? Do the faces in the crowd seem like the faces in a jury, and you are the guilty one on trial? Do your hands shake and knees feel weak? There is a legitimate reason: you may have glossophobia. No, no, it isn’t a clinical condition, but it is a genuine fear of public speaking. The thought of standing in front of a crowd scares some people so much that it inhibits their ability to be powerful business leaders. In order to give a seamless performance in front of the audience, it is important to remember the five Rs of public speaking: research, reconnaissance, rehearse, relax, and react.
Research: You have to become an expert on the topic that you are presenting. That doesn’t mean that you have to publish scholarly articles beforehand, but make sure that you truly know every angle of the material that you will present. Think about how your subject relates to other fields of study, what financial implications the subject has, and how the news you are telling the audience will affect their daily lives and work.
Reconnaissance: After becoming an expert, tailor all of your newfound knowledge to the particular group you are addressing. Why are you giving the speech? What is the audience looking for? Is it a part of a conference that is based around a theme? If so, make your topic relevant. Are you going to be addressing a very creative crowd, or will you be speaking in front of accountants who are on the constant lookout for loopholes? Plan your speech accordingly, drawing in artistic comparisons or detailed financial specifics depending on the crowd.
Rehearse: Try taping yourself while practicing your presentation skills so that you can examine your physiology: are you swaying back and forth or using too many hand gestures? Talking too quickly or too softly? Tweak your performance after each run-through. Also be sure to check out local support groups and training courses (including Toastmasters International and various regional chapters of Speakers Associations). As the saying goes, you’ll never get to Carnegie Hall unless you practice!
Relax: The pressure put upon keynote speakers is enormous. Not only do you have to be an expert in your field, but you have to be a brilliant speaker that will retain the crowd’s attention in an ADD-riddled society. Use sincerity and humor (when appropriate), combined with an interesting hook to draw your listeners in. If you have truly taken ownership of the material, then the content portion of the speech should come naturally.
React: The reason why many find public speaking harder than simply practicing in your apartment is because of the audience. In reality, they are a tool for you. Be sure to gauge the audience’s reactions during your speech and react to their responses. Did they laugh at your opening story? They’re lively! That’s fantastic! Incorporate more personal stories into the speech. Is this the last speech before lunch and people are constantly looking at their watches? Stick to the main points, and don’t ramble. The ability to read a group is a key social skill for business and will help you throughout your career.
If it comes to it, there is a sixth R: Recover. Your speech is important, but it is not going to determine your fate. Be confident in your knowledge. If you get stumped by a question, be honest and admit that you do not know the answer. If you have prepared fully and rehearsed beforehand, you should give an impressive performance!
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