Speak, Connect and Inspire

- 4 Tips to Improving Public Speaking

We all know that words hold so much power. They can change the mindset, inform people about crucial matters, inspire us to act, allow others to escape the rat race through pages of a book or simply influence a preference when seen on a billboard. Words are powerful however words are even more powerful when used by a skilled speaker or orator. As a professional sales person, organizational leader, entrepreneur, mentor and coach,  I have spoken on hundreds of stages and in front of thousands of people. You would think that this came naturally to me. This is quite the contrary as I was shy by nature. 


Public speaking and mastering the fear of being in front of an audience was something I had to work on everyday. It took time and practice so that it didn’t seem so unnatural. In fact, when I first decided to muster up the courage to conquer my fear of public speaking, I decided not to wear a watch. What does not having to wear a watch have anything to do with public speaking? Well, public speaking is often done in front of an audience with the goal in mind to influence, communicate, persuade or entertain the listener. Sometimes we know the audience, however oftentimes we don’t. By not wearing a watch it allowed me to take baby steps and walk up to a complete stranger and ask for the time. That simple action convinced me that it was possible for me to persuade someone into giving me information that I didn’t have, albeit small. Baby steps remember. After giving me the time, they would often ask me why I don’t have a watch. This curiosity in turn opened up the conversation for me to explain my strategy on how to overcome my anxiety of speaking to strangers. The result was often a positive experience, words of encouragement or simple response of “Cool. That’s a creative idea.”. The first lesson here is that if you want to feel comfortable speaking in front of many people, learn to feel comfortable speaking to a complete stranger first. 


My journey of public speaking expanded from simply asking random strangers for the time to asking audiences of hundreds to invest millions of dollars with myself and my firm. The audience even grew to entertain several thousand people on stage as I hosted concerts and large events outside of my professional career. Once I became confident on stage, the sky was the limit. But again, to get to that point it took many little things that compounded into habits in order for me to master this craft. Among the many tips to improve this skill, here are 4 simple ideas that worked for me when it came to mastering public speaking. 


1) Connect on a personal level through stories. As in my watch strategy, asking a random stranger opened up the opportunity for me to tell my story. The audience wants to connect and empathize. They see themselves in the narrative you create and are more open to listening to your message.  Everyone can appreciate an underdog trying his best to improve himself, even if it’s asking for the time.  


2) Create curiosity. People were curious as to why I didn’t have a watch. The best public speakers ask thought provoking questions or gently disturb our comfort zone by creating curiously. Engage in the audience’s imagination by asking “What if…”, “Imagine if…” or “How would feel it…” Curiosity pulls the audience and if done properly can get them emotionally committed to hearing the rest of your message.  


3) Remember that Fear is not real. The major reason why people suck at public speaking is because of fear. Sure nervousness is real however fear is not. Fear is “False Evidence Appearing real”.  We tend to fear something that hasn’t happened. The audience hasn’t booed you off stage or thrown tomatoes. The reality is that if your speech sucked then they will likely forget it as society has the attention span of a squirrel. Most of the time, you are the subject matter expert so even if you fear that you will forget something, the odds are the audience won’t realize it. Remember that you know your stuff. You know more about your speech then the audience so show no fear. Unless you are facing a firing squad and pleading for your life,  you’re likely not going to die of public speaking.


 Finally, 4) Be passionate and have fun. No one wants to have a snooze fest by listening to a boring person. Ever find yourself raving to your friends about a great movie or a new restaurant you just tried?  View public speaking with the same enthusiasm and fun. Regardless of the seriousness of the topic, there is always a way to express passion in delivering a message. Your passion is felt through your tone, body language and energy. Barrack Obama was great at this as he was always able to add a sense of charm and passion to his speeches. People love to listen to passionate people as it’s magnetic. If there’s enough passion for someone to get up on stage and share a message, then it must be worth listening to. 


Public Speaking is not only a great skill to have but it is necessary for survival. In a world where we are in competition for the attention of an audience, persuading and influencing through speech is vital. Humans are meant to connect. In fact, we are creatures that crave connection. These simple tips are not rocket science.They can be practiced in daily life so there really isn’t any excuse to even slightly improve your public speaking skill. So use the stage or even a random encounter to make those connections through stories. Inspire curiosity in the process. Remember that fear is not real so speak with confidence. Most of all, speak from the heart while having fun doing it.  Oh and by the way, as you speak, connect and inspire, don’t forget to smile during your standing ovation!  Good luck.