This is my one, single, most important tip for nailing public speaking.
It's a method I've used many times to help apsiring presenters go from fearing the art to feeling fine about it - The Loving It Ladder.
Like so many people, you're scared of public speaking, right?
The thought of it sends you into a spin. If you have to do it, you worry for days beforehand, and as for the night before...
Don't even go there.
Yet you know you have to become at least competent at presenting to get on in life.
So here's what to do -
First of all, follow my tips for how to put together a stonking presentation on whatever it is you need to talk about.
Now get practising. Start climbing the ladder. And this is how it goes, rung by rung -
- Initially, on your own
In the safety of your own room. To no one but yourself. Rehearse and rehearse until you're feeling more confident.
- Now start videoing yourself
Pick up on the stumbles, the hesitations, where the story doesn't quite flow, negative body language, all that stuff. And iron it out.
- Next, invite in someone close
This can be your partner, a family member, or a good friend. It just has to be someone you trust, and feel relaxed with. And practise to them.
- Invite a couple more people
Again, they have to be close and trustworthy. So now you've got an audience of three. Present to them until the nerves ease once more and it's all feeling, looking and sounding good.
- Shift the audience and location
This is a big rung. Ask two or three work colleagues to watch you present. Once more, they have to be kind and supportive.
Preferably have a couple of friends and your partner there as well, to support you. Because you know you can do it with them there.
At this point, get out of your home. Use a room at work, or in an office, the sort of place where you're going to have to do it for real.
- Finally, try to find an audience of about ten, a mix of family and friends, some more colleagues, and use an office again.
Now practise, practise, practise, and practise some more.
And that's it. You're good to go and do it for real.
That's the Loving It Ladder.
Ok, I exaggerated, just to get your attention. You may never come to love public speaking.
But you sure will become competent if you try this trick. Believe me, it works.
And finally, one last thought - is it worth the effort?
You bet. I would never have enjoyed such a wonderful career without working to become competent at public speaking.
But perhaps more importantly -
You'll feel fulfilled.
I hosted the Open Mic nights at the Writers' Weekend festival last week, and just about all the readers were very nervous when they went on...
But afterwards... after facing down their fears and strutting their stuff...
They fizzed and buzzed and walked tall and felt so good you could sense it across the miles of internet which separated us all.